To become a good, or even great leader, you don’t need to be the stereotypical confident person. Leadership could (and sometimes does) come hand in hand with an idea of a humble person chasing perfection thus growing any business bigger than planned.
However let’s not kid ourselves, being a leader can be tough! Dealing with people, the pressures of showing the direction (aka correct way) to go, constantly setting a positive example, taking criticizm for unpopular (yet often needed) decisions and then on top of that, the never ending responsibilities that come with your team or organization. Whether it is small, medium or large team, it is energy demanding. To drive through these things you do actually need genuine confidence, also known as true self-confidence.
Luckily, there are certain exercises to help keep and/or build your confidence and I will walk you through the ones that have worked for me:
This might sound easy to say, but this is the first step to build and keep your confidence at a healthy level. As a leader you are going to be under pressure and constantly challenged, you are definitely going to be wrong at some point, and you will be criticised several times. This will increase your stress and nerve levels. Being stressed and nervous is your body’s way of making you ready for whatever it is that you are going to do.,e.g meeting your new team, firing someone, giving that presentation you’ve been worrying about. Make a decision to accept it and whenever an uncomfortable situation comes up remember that it is a normal part of life and the feelings you have are there to actually help you. The sooner you accept that the easier life becomes.
Revisit the last thing you failed on and seek out what you learned. Shift your focus from failure to learning because that’s development and development is positive! Let’s take an example: you hired the star at interview. 3 weeks into their role and they are far from the star, your team is telling you that they aren’t good and you decide to dismiss them. Yes, you made a bad hire but you also gained experience on what to watch out for the next time and how to handle similar situations in future. You may congratulate yourself on being able to spot a mistake and find a solution for it.
Always try to seek out the positive of any situation, regardless of how hopeless it might feel. As a start do this excercise: Be your own cheerleader and pick 3-5 things that you succeeded in and you are proud of – and write a list. Writing something down – especially by hand – makes you clarify your own thoughts, gives bigger relevance and stronger meaning to the things written down. Keep this short list with you and when it gets tough, just look at it. It refocuses the mind to the positive and helps your brain to boost your confidence. A recent study shows 79% of women and 62% of men regularly lack confidence which prevents us to live up to our full potential. I use a famous quote from Henry Ford to redirect my self-criticism to self-confidence:
„Whether you think you can or can’t ,you are right.”
Put down the phone, the laptop and really focus on what’s going on around you. This will help you „read the room“ and better place you to feel as well as know what’s going on around you. When you are more aware of your feelings, thoughts and fears you are able to deal with them better.
Being clear with yourself on what you want to achieve is something that’s really underestimated. More often than not we lie to ourselves, make ourselves BUSY and get distracted by things that we “have” to do as opposed to focusing on the things that are actually important to us. This links us to our purpose, which when knowing that, we can determine what really is deserving of our energy and effort and what actually just is one of these things that just needs to get done and isn’t worth sweating about. Being clearer on what we want to do makes us more focused thus more effective which helps us see results which ultimately gives confidence in ourselves.
I hope you find these tips as useful as I have, though this last one might sound strange, it actually works.
Create a ritual that makes you feel stronger both emotionally and physically. For example: Emotional boost: choose a song that motivates you put your headphones on and listen to it loud. At the same time boost your physical strength: depending on the situation either stand up straight, take deep breaths and walk a bit or sit in your chair lean back, put your legs up on your desk and cross your arms behind your head. The emotional boost gives you inner confidence while the physical one redirects your perception of your own self.
Finally (at least for this time) a book worth reading – From Values to Action – The four principles of values based leadership – by Harry Kraemer should be the first book anyone wanting to be a leader should read, so go ahead and get yourself a copy ! (it might even help you to understand your purpose)