Confidence has many faces. We’re generally drawn to confident people because we associate confidence with success, and find confident people charismatic, approachable, and inspirational. A confident person has an aura of trust and knowingness about them, which makes it easy to follow them, listen to them, and not question their decisions.
If we look back in history, we see many confident monarchs, military officials, politicians, and enlightened leaders. Now, in current turbulent times, where decisions are made quickly, and technology changes all the time, leaders still need to appear confident and assertive. Truth be told, though, deep down many of them aren’t. They’re riddled with self-doubt, question their own competencies, skills, and actions; they feel like they aren’t good enough and don’t have all the answers. They doubt their actions and behaviour, which doesn’t help their decision-making ability and their efforts to create positive change in their organisations.
Leaders search for an ideal balance, without wanting to appear overconfident because that can be perceived as arrogant by their team members. They also don’t want to have an over-optimistic risk appetite which leads to them not considering everything before making a decision. On the other hand, they don’t want to come across as lacking confidence because then they may be perceived as weak, a pushover and unable to make decisions.
What is Confidence?
Confidence is the optimistic self-belief that we can perform a task to our own standard or that of others. It is made up of two components: 1) self-efficacy, and 2) self-esteem. We develop self-efficacy through learning, and by acquiring skills that we then use and develop during our lifetime. Self-esteem is how we perceive ourselves based on the approval and recognition we receive from the outside world.
Confidence in the Body
Confidence is more than just feeling good about ourselves or thinking positively. It’s built on the foundation of our past achievements and successes. As with most human behavioural elements, there is a nature and nurture aspect to it. Nature gives us our genetic make-up, and is something that we can’t influence at all. Thankfully nurture comes into play, and we can grow and develop our level of confidence. Most confidence is developed through things like our upbringing, culture, value system, life experience, emotions, past memories, and stress levels. Growing and developing confidence starts by training our brain to become more attuned to our way of thinking and acting. Research shows that confidence activates the rewards and pleasure part of our brain, thus signalling that it wants us to repeat confident behaviour because we feel more cheerful, enthusiastic, energised, and happier. Confidence rewards us with positive emotions, and this will encourage us to repeat the behaviour.
Techniques to Boost your Leadership Confidence
Now that you have a clear understanding of what confidence is, let’s look at some practical steps to boost your confidence. Remember, though, that with all behavioural change items there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. These are only suggestions, and you need to personalise them to suit you.
Surround yourself with positive, confident people – This sounds very obvious, but we seldom apply it. Look for friends, colleagues, or mentors who exude confidence. Hang out with them! Bask in their energy, and be encouraged to set goals that you would otherwise be fearful to achieve. It takes a mere seven minutes to absorb their confident energy and for you to start believing in yourself. Do this as often as you can, because the environment that you operate in plays an important role.
Accept compliments graciously – Many people feel very awkward when receiving compliments, and brush them off as nothing special. Stop doing this! People will stop giving you compliments, and you need them to boost your confidence. Say thank you graciously, and reflect on how you can repeat this behaviour.
Review past successes – Confidence is built on past successes and achievements. We learn more from our success than we do from our failures, so look at what you did, how you did it, and who you surrounded yourself with at the time. Don’t limit yourself by only remembering the big successes; rather review the ones that made your heart swell, and that you are really proud of. Become aware of the strengths that you applied at the time.
Visualise your success – Close your eyes and see that success, feel it, and then drill that image into your mind. Make sure that you can remember it easily. Your brain doesn’t know whether it’s reality or not, so it will react as if it is, and will behave confidently. This is where the saying “Fake it until you make it” comes from.
Reframe what you want – We’re naturally really good at saying what we don’t want, but find it challenging to say what we do want. Confident people are able to express what they want, by when, and how, so you need to learn to reverse your thinking. Articulate what you need, from whom, how, and by when, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome. People will really appreciate this clear level of communication.
Seventy percent of leaders build confidence through work experience and conscious effort. This means that you can do this by beginning to set bite-sized goals that will enable you to be successful.
Take the first step… but remember to keep the momentum going all the time.