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Confidence is critical to leading a happy and fulfilled life, it is also critical to being able to offer leadership. Confidence is something that we can all enjoy.
The first thing to know about confidence is that we are all confident – when we are doing things that we understand and where we feel clear about why we are doing them. None of us are confident when we are doing something unfamiliar or where the direction and boundaries are unclear. Some of us are more comfortable with the uncertainty than others – and this is the opportunity space.
If you want to be confident, start by focussing as much of your time and roles as you can on the areas where you feel confident. Steer work and conversations towards the subjects you feel confident in. Part of the confidence we need to acquire is that we can do this steering.
Recognising a confident leader
Confident leaders know where they are going; they have a clear vision and they inspire others to follow (a leader is someone who people follow – simple definition.) Contrary to popular belief leaders do not have to be the ones who define the vision, they might draw the vision from their team members, or from somewhere else, the point is that they are able to articulate it in a way that inspires others to follow.
Confident leaders have followers; given the definition above that may seem like stating the obvious, but we also call people who have “lackeys” or “dependents” leaders too. Typically followers of confident leaders will talk about how their leader helps them to feel confident and valued.
Confident leaders follow; they are not out front leading the whole time, being the hero. They are part of the team and they are helping their team members feel like heros. In fact they only really lead at the precise moment when they have to, the rest of the time they make space for others.
Confident leaders are humble; confident leaders seldom claim credit (unless it is in the interests of the team to do so) and are open about their weaknesses and failures. Confident leaders never blame others.
Confident leaders are authentic; they know themselves deeply, they know their strengths and use them well, they also know their weaknesses and how to collaborate so that they do not compromise the team. They know their purpose and pursue a vision that will deliver on their purpose with an aligned and like minded team. They are decisive in protecting the culture of the team, while also keeping it accessible and avoiding elitism.
Confident leaders are courageous; with their focus firmly set on their vision confident leaders step up and lead when the moment comes. When the tough conversations need to be had, the risks need to be taken or the challenges need to be faced. Confident leaders do what needs to be done without hesitation, and also without disempowering their team.
Confident leaders are sensitive (and insensitive); able to sense the energy in their team members and wider stakeholders and able to communicate appropriately, building people up when they feel down and empowering positive behaviours as well as discouraging negative behaviours.
Being a confident leader
The best way is to start small. Focus on your own purpose and vision, get to an articulation that really works for you and then begin to share it. Use your vision to find your collaborators, others whose vision is aligned with your own. Form a team with your collaborators and focus on being entirely authentic yourself, while empowering and encouraging authenticity in others.
Become fully self aware, notice any discomfort you feel at any process or suggestion. Get into the habit of self inquiry to understand discomfort and become used to judging it’s message. Is it something to overcome or acknowledge and avoid?
Communicate your conclusions, without delay, openly, honestly and without confrontation. If you feel uncomfortable with one of your someones ideas or behaviour – have the conversation, right away, always seeking clarity rather than victory.
Co create the strategy for reaching the vision with the team. Encourage and support team members to pursue the elements of the strategy they are most motivated by. Check in on progress regularly, celebrating success and supporting people in overcoming obstacles. Never blame anyone for failure – simply hold an open and honest inquiry and look for solutions. If someone has not delivered, seek to understand why. If they could not find the motivation – find out why without blame or criticism. If they are unable to contribute, because their motivation turns out to be different, help them move to somewhere where they can be motivated.
Of course this is a highly simplified take on confidence and leadership – I hope it illustrates that leadership is not a mystery or a dark art, but a set of behaviours that we all do already in some circumstances. It is just a question of applying the same behaviours to leadership and team work.
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