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?

Click HERE for more information on developing self-awareness to enhance your effective communication skills and leadership skills, or how executive coaching could help your confidence.



  1. admin

    Thanks to Mickey Riley on Linked In:
    Thanks for sharing this, being honestly self-aware is one of the most important and yet the most difficult leadership trait any of us can master.

  2. admin

    Thanks to Andrea Barry on Linked In:

    Boy did this article resonate! I caught myself nodding in agreement all the way through! Often people find themselves in a leadership role where they have loads of experience in the doing but managing is quite alien, particularly if you are promoted from the “shop floor”

    I remember a client who was promoted in this fashion with no previous management experience, practically no guidance or support from the senior management and in fact, her own manager told her she would never succeed in the role! While I am sure this was sour grapes from being excluded in the decision to promote her, the impact this had on the newly appointed manager was pretty devastating emotionally. Coupled with the total lack of proper training and development, one would think she would fall over at the first hurdle. Instead, she surrounded herself with positive and supportive connections (none from within the company itself!), worked hard to develop her managerial skills and bounced ideas off this network of external support. But ultimately, she had the inner strength and stubborness not to let the circumstances or negative people drag her down. It was not without difficulty that she pulled a very undisciplined team round and won an industry award for her department.

    It can be hard for managers to resist the urge to just get on and do the job themselves but this isn’t useful in the long term. It is so important to give your team responsibility and the freedom to crack on and get a result without micro managing. (Why I like TAM!)

    The biggest problem in being a confident, efficient manager is trust. If you don’t trust your team, you will never keep your hands off the work they should be doing and if the team doesn’t trust you, they are never going to give any project you hand them the required level of commitment. They don’t have to love you, but they need to know they can trust you have the ability and knowledge to handle your job. Either way, productivity will suffer and any confidence you have will slowly be eroded – although some managers will blame their team and accuse them of being incompetent.

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