Confidence is a cornerstone of effective leadership. It enhances decision-making, communication, adaptability, and resilience, ultimately creating a positive and empowering work environment where individuals and teams can thrive and achieve their full potential. Surprisingly for many of us, when someone is lacking confidence, it is not always obvious to them or even those closest to them. It can be masked in many ways.
One of the most common ways a lack of confidence is masked is when someone attributes their struggles and failures to external factors rather than acknowledging their lack of self-assurance. They might blame circumstances, luck, or other people for their challenges, avoiding introspection about their internal mindset.
Another common masking behavior is overcompensating by being overly critical or perfectionistic. These individuals may set impossibly high standards for themselves and others, trying to prove their worth or competence, which masks their underlying lack of self-assurance.
And thirdly, I often see leaders compensate for low confidence by not confronting their emotions. The thought of facing insecurities can be intimidating and uncomfortable for the most confident among us. But low confidence individuals may avoid introspection or self-reflection to protect themselves from this potential emotional discomfort.
The Story of Janice
Janice lacked confidence in her abilities and decision-making, but didn't really know that this was her struggle. Janice was appointed as the CEO of a well-established company, and she quickly began to doubt her own competence in this new role with its high pressure and high visibility, becoming hyper-vigilant about avoiding mistakes that could be potentially disastrous. In no time, she found herself struggling to lead the company effectively.
Janice found it difficult to make timely decisions, as she was constantly second-guessing herself, especially when her team challenged her approach. This indecisiveness then created uncertainty and frustration among her team, who questioned her even more, and who simultaneously needed clear directions to move forward.
Due to her subtle lack of confidence, Janice struggled to articulate a compelling vision for the company's future. None had existed before Janice took the reins, and there always seemed to be a crisis that took precedence over clarifying the vision. As a result, the employees were unsure of the company's direction, and their motivation and productivity suffered.
In an attempt to compensate for her growing perceived lack of expertise, Janice started micromanaging her team. She would interfere in their tasks, causing frustration and hindering innovation. This also led to a lack of trust from her team members, who felt undermined and undervalued.
Janice would often deflect blame onto others or external circumstances when things didn't go as planned. Feeling out of her depth and under a microscope, she was reluctant to take ownership of her mistakes, which then eroded the team's trust in her leadership and hindered a culture of accountability.
Janice, an articulate woman, also struggled to communicate clearly and assertively with her team. She was extremely busy, and expected them to know what needed to be done. This led to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and a lack of alignment among the employees.
The company began missing out on potential growth opportunities dues to hesitancy and a growing fear of risk and failure. Given the ongoing crises and low productivity, Janice was unwilling to explore new markets, which hindered the company's ability to adapt to changing market conditions.
The Confidence Intervention
Janice knew something needed to change, and she hired an executive coach. While she had been focused on the external dynamics, it quickly became apparent that there were underlying confidence issues which were underlying. She began to understand how confidence plays a crucial role in better leadership in several ways:
Decision-making: Confident leaders are more decisive. They trust their judgment and are not afraid to make tough choices. Their confidence helps them weigh options, assess risks, and take decisive action, which is essential in leadership roles.
Inspiring others: Confidence is contagious. When a leader exudes confidence, it inspires their team members to believe in themselves and their abilities. It fosters a positive and motivated work environment where everyone feels empowered to perform at their best.
Adaptability: Confident leaders are more adaptable and open to change. They are willing to take calculated risks and embrace innovation. Their self-assurance allows them to navigate uncertainty and guide their teams through challenging times.
Effective communication: Confidence enables leaders to communicate with clarity and assertiveness. They can convey their vision, goals, and expectations effectively, leading to better team understanding and alignment.
Handling setbacks: Confident leaders are better equipped to handle setbacks and failures. They see them as learning opportunities rather than personal defeats. This resilience helps them bounce back quickly and maintain their team's morale.
Building trust: Confidence instills trust in the team. When team members see their leader's self-assurance, they have greater faith in their capabilities and leadership decisions. Trust is essential for a cohesive and high-performing team.
Delegating effectively: Confident leaders are more willing to delegate tasks and responsibilities. They trust their team members' abilities and recognize that they cannot do everything alone. Effective delegation leads to improved productivity and professional growth among team members.
Handling conflicts: Confidence helps leaders handle conflicts and difficult conversations constructively. They can address issues directly and assertively, seeking resolutions that benefit everyone involved.
Leading by example: Confident leaders set a positive example for their team. Their self-assurance and positive demeanor inspire their team members to emulate those qualities, creating a culture of confidence and empowerment.
Visionary leadership: Confident leaders are more likely to think big and set ambitious goals. Their belief in their abilities and the team's potential encourages them to strive for greatness, leading to innovative and breakthrough solutions.
Signs Your Confidence Could Use A Boost
If you think you might be a Janice, there are certain things to look for. Improving confidence involves recognizing and addressing various signs across different aspects of communication and behavior. Here are some interactional, language, emotional, and body language signs that may indicate a need to work on boosting your confidence:
Interactional Signs of Lower Confidence:
Avoiding or hesitating to engage in conversations and social interactions.
Struggling to maintain eye contact during conversations.
Difficulty asserting yourself or expressing your opinions in group settings.
Feeling uncomfortable or anxious in social situations.
Defensiveness when someone provides constructive feedback or disagrees with you.
Using sarcasm to deliver negative feedback.
Heightened anxiety in anticipation of new or high-stakes interactions.
Language Signs of Lower Confidence:
Using tentative language, such as "I guess," "I suppose," or "I'm not sure."
Apologizing excessively, even when not necessary.
Overusing fillers, like "um," "uh," or "like," during speech.
Minimizing achievements or downplaying your skills and abilities.
Emotional signs of Lower Confidence:
Feeling a constant sense of self-doubt or imposter syndrome.
Experiencing fear or anxiety when faced with new challenges or responsibilities.
Being overly sensitive to criticism and taking it personally.
Feeling inadequate or comparing yourself negatively to others.
Body Language Signs of Lower Confidence:
Slouching or having poor posture, which can convey a lack of confidence.
Fidgeting or avoiding stillness during conversations or presentations.
Crossing arms or using closed-off body language, suggesting defensiveness.
Speaking softly or hesitantly, which can diminish your perceived confidence.
Simple Shifts to Improve Your Confidence
If you notice the signs above in yourself, don't worry; there are ways to improve your confidence. You can use as many of these as appeal to you in combination, and generally speaking, the more you engage in, the greater improvement you are likely to experience:
Practice self-awareness: Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings to identify negative self-talk and self-limiting beliefs.
Set achievable goals: Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps to build confidence gradually.
Celebrate your successes: Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small, and recognize your progress.
Positive affirmations: Use daily affirmations to rewire your mind with positive thoughts and beliefs about yourself.
Visualization: Imagine yourself succeeding in various situations to boost your confidence and reduce anxiety.
Seek feedback: Ask for constructive feedback from trusted colleagues or mentors to understand your strengths and areas for improvement.
Improve your knowledge and skills: Continuously develop your expertise to feel more confident in your abilities.
Body language: Adopt confident body language, such as standing tall, making eye contact, and using purposeful gestures.
Face your fears: Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and embrace new challenges.
Practice assertiveness: To be very clear: assertiveness is not aggression. Assertiveness is standing up for yourself. Aggression is standing against someone else. Express your opinions and needs clearly and respectfully in both professional and personal settings.
By addressing these signs and incorporating positive practices into your daily routine, you can steadily improve your confidence and become a more self-assured and effective leader. Additionally, if affirmations are something that you find useful in redirecting your awareness and rewiring your thinking, here are 20 affirmations.
20 Morning Affirmations to Boost Your Confidence:
I am worthy of all the good things that life has to offer.
I believe in my abilities and trust myself to handle any challenges that come my way.
I am strong, capable, and resilient in the face of adversity.
Today, I choose to embrace my uniqueness and let my true self shine.
I attract positivity and opportunities into my life because I radiate confidence.
I release all self-doubt and replace it with unwavering self-assurance.
My past does not define me; I have the power to create a bright future.
I am deserving of love, respect, and success in all aspects of my life.
I am confident in my decisions, and I trust my intuition to guide me.
I welcome challenges as opportunities to grow and learn.
My self-belief empowers me to take bold actions and achieve greatness.
I am a capable and talented individual, and I can achieve my goals.
I am in control of my thoughts and emotions, and I choose to focus on positivity.
I am resilient, and setbacks only make me stronger and more determined.
Today I step out of my comfort zone and embrace new experiences fearlessly.
I have the power to overcome any obstacles that come my way.
My confidence inspires and uplifts those around me.
I am constantly improving and evolving, becoming a better version of myself each day.
I am confident in expressing my ideas and opinions without fear of judgment.
My confidence is not dependent on others' opinions; I am enough just as I am.
Start your mornings by repeating these affirmations with conviction, and watch how they positively influence your mindset and boost your confidence throughout the day! Remember, confidence is something you can cultivate with practice and self-affirmation.
If you would like help building your confidence as a leader, reach out and let's schedule a free discovery session to see if executive leadership coaching is the right answer for you right now.