Why Leaders Need to Improve
(Authentic) Self Confidence

Self-ConfidenceNo one gives you self confidence; it is something each of us has to develop on our own. Now, you may have been fortunate to have had great parents and siblings and supportive teachers who intuitively built your self-esteem. Okay, lucky you.

I don’t deny that happens and that some people seem to have been blessed from birth. However, I contend that even so, given the negativity bias of the brain, every one of us carries a kernel of under-confidence and self-doubt.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. ~ Henry Ford, U.S. industrialist

In my opinion, even the most polished and successful leaders need to improve their experience and expression of self confidence. Many leaders lack sensitivity to what is real and authentic confidence vs. hubris. As leaders, we become skilled at projecting “executive presence” and assurance. Our ability to influence others depends on coming across as secure, knowledgeable and expert. We walk around trying to convince others we’re confident, competent, and trustworthy.

(And a large part of that is done in an effort to convince ourselves—to override that little voice inside that whispers “not good enough,” or “imposter,” or “maybe they won’t notice it’s not perfect.”) We need to sort out what’s authentic from what’s left-over childhood scripts, and be aware of when we’re buying into our own press releases.

Self-doubt and lack of self confidence is pervasive and universal yet few of us admit to our insecurities (unless to our executive coach in private, and even then, guardedly). It forms in early childhood, during those formative first six years.

Impatient parents, critical siblings, inept teachers all can turn the impressionable and mouldable young child into someone lacking the basic tools for confidence. Yet this doesn’t condemn us. It just means we have to develop the required attributes for confidence as adults. ~ Robert Kelsey, What’s Stopping You Being More Confident?

Now, many of us working in organizations have had experiences working for people who seemed to have too much self confidence, right? At least that’s what I hear when I’m working and coaching in companies. These “Big Egos” in the C-suite offices are always fodder for gossip and jokes.

But it all stems from self-doubt and insecurities. Leaders aren’t immune. They often lack self confidence. In fact, I contend that many over-achievers are driven to cover up their negative childhood scripts by outwardly proving to themselves and the world they are worthy. Which, when you think about it, isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t make the lack of self confidence go away, but as adults, we can reverse the tendency to play out self-fulfilling prophesies.

Because that’s what lack of self-confidence does. It sabotages best intentions when we give in to it. But the problem is that when we don’t give in to it, when we try to deny its existence, we end up over-confident, over-promising others, and inauthentic. This isn’t a Catch-22. As leaders, we get really good at covering up insecurities, but the smarter approach is to own them and work with them.

What I’m trying to say is that when leaders take off their masks, they become more authentic leaders. They start to acquire real self confidence.

What’s happening where you work? Is your self-confidence real, hidden, or not even mentioned? What about how it shows up in your leaders? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call, 704-827-4474. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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