Courageous. Steadfast. Calm and collected. Persistent. Accountable.
These were the answers we received at a recent small-group discussion where we asked, “What qualities come to mind when you think of a confident leader?”
My favorite answer was from a woman in the room who said, “They [confident leaders] are leaders that everyone admires without trying too hard to be admired.” I thought of some of my favorite leaders throughout history: Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, to name a few, and she couldn’t have been more spot on with her answer.
When people think of successful, confident leaders, most of us think their confidence is part of their DNA. So far, in 2019, we have surveyed over 250 leaders, and 65% think confidence as a leader comes naturally. To add to this, 28% of leaders don’t feel they have the confidence to be an influential leader within their organization or community.
While leadership intuition and confidence come more naturally for some, it doesn’t mean it cannot be cultivated and developed. Wherever your confidence levels might currently be in your leadership, these five tips can raise your confidence over time with practice and effort.
- Let go of the need to be liked. We find this to be one of the most difficult leadership practices for most people to achieve. As Great Leaders Have No Rules author Kevin Kruse puts it: Be likable, not liked. It’s easy to be the boss everyone likes, but being everyone’s friend won’t necessarily make you a good leader. Be kind to everyone. Respect everyone. But know it’s more than ok not to be best friends with everyone.
- Try being more open, honest, and vulnerable as a leader. It’s a trendy discussion in leadership, as there are hundreds of podcasts, blog posts, and even full books written about leading with vulnerability. But have you actually tried it? If you’re brave enough to be vulnerable in front of your people, you quickly find the walls break down and a sense of relief comes over you. You realize you don’t have to be perfect, have all the answers, and that your past mistakes and flaws might actually be valuable for others to learn. You don’t have to be a superhero all the time, and your confidence grows knowing you’re a stronger leader than think. (If you haven’t read or listened to much Brené Brown, I recommend checking out some of her material.)
- Study and learn more about leadership. Read leadership books, listen to leadership podcast, seek leadership mentors. However you may enjoy learning, always be on a leadership growth journey. If you’re learning, you’ll always feel equipped to handle various leadership situations and eager to offer insights to your team or organization.
- Listen and ask more questions. You don’t have to have all the answers as a leader. In fact, many times having all the answers doesn’t make you a great leader. One thing all great leaders do is ask great questions. You’ll find in many situations you need to let the person you’re leading figure it out, and asking the right questions guides him or her there.
- Dress and groom yourself well. Sometimes looking the part helps us play the part, and confidence is not exception. People noticed self-leadership, and dressing nicely and displaying good grooming habits is a sign of good self-leadership.