Being a leader can be a very fulfilling role. Seeing employees achieve great successes, learn new skills, develop new behaviours and take on leadership roles of their own provides a very satisfying feeling to those who have been part of that development.
However, at times, it can seem very overwhelming. Do you feel you have to know everything, be better than your team members, or you have someone biting at your heels expecting you to prove yourself constantly? Many a time in my management career I’ve gone home thinking “I can’t do this”, “I really didn’t handle that well” and even “at some stage I’m going to be caught out as a fraud as I really don’t know what I’m doing”!
Building your confidence as a leader is essential to move from those self-belief destroying thoughts to a place where you can comfortably learn from your mistakes, make decisions and understand how to communicate effectively with every member of your team.
Your team members want you to understand why they come to work, what motivates them, to know the best way to help them learn and develop, delegate appropriately and trust them. For a leader to be able to do this, they have to have both confidence in themselves and in their interaction with their team.
New managers have to learn a number of new skills, especially if they have been promoted through the ranks and need to differentiate between leading and doing the work. A number of times I’ve taken on management roles and had to be taught about the work by my new team, in one case by someone who had failed to get the manager’s job themselves.
That’s an interesting leadership skills challenge and requires a certain level of confidence to understand that your role is very different to theirs and you’re not required to understand the minutiae of their jobs, but you do need to inspire, challenge, question, encourage, instil trust and lead.
Building your confidence requires a good understanding of your beliefs, values, working preferences. What works for you, what is holding you back, what internal talk is building your confidence or destroying it. Then you can learn the leadership skills that allow you to utilise your strengths, be aware of your development needs, and understand the different approaches of your team members.
For instance, did you realise that if you are busy strategising and analysing, your brain’s circuitry for thinking about other people gets switched off? A leader’s role is often about being analytical and goal orientated, often under pressure, so it’s not a surprise that your team might not feel as understood as they’d like. Being aware of consequences and behaviours such as this, helps you understand the dynamics of relationships.
Here’s an exercise to understand how you judge the results of your actions and how you are doing. So answer these two questions and read the descriptions. Then consider how your needs could affect your confidence levels when they’re absent, and how you could find other ways to achieve the desired results.
- How do you know when you’ve done a good job?
- Do you just know inside, or does some have to tell you?
Internal – “I just know” or “I had a feeling” – you reflect internally for data to evaluate how you are doing.
External – “Someone has to tell me”, “I look at the figures” or “I got a reward”. You will want to know what others think or what everybody else did.
Combination – you want to have an internal knowing and also like external acknowledgement or need external verification equally
Internal knowing with External check – if the external data is inconsistent with your internal knowing, you may change your evaluation of the situation. If no external input is available you are satisfied with your internal evaluation.
External with Internal check – It is possible for a person with an external frame to need an internal check, although you may be able to know if you have done a good job even in the absence of an external check.
Leadership can be amazingly fulfilling and the impact of confident leadership is far-reaching, but it can also be difficult and under-appreciated. So remembering your achievements, and learning complementary skills, will build your confidence and benefit not only you but all those you work with along the way. How good is that?
What experiences or feedback have helped you build your confidence as a leader, and what have negatively affected it?