Confidence is Key!


By Margaret Enloe, JD, PCC. Understandably, what’s top of mind right now for many is the long-term impact of the pandemic, the importance of resilience and good communication, taking advantage of opportunities, and the many uncertainties that lie ahead. 

In light of this, one leadership attribute which gets put on the back burner is the importance of confidence. Yet, having confidence is key to successfully doing just about anything. It affects:

a) How we feel. Our enjoyment of work and our feelings of autonomy; 

b) How we act,. How assertive we are, how we seize opportunities and face risks; 

c) Our relationships and ability to engage with people; and 

d) How we communicate. For example, people are less likely to speak up if they lack confidence or they might use a high voice or giggle which reduces their credibility.

If we have confidence, many hard things seem possible. Without it, taking care of business, let alone the next bold step, is almost impossible. 

Three Things to Remember

1. Confidence is not a sideshow. Many studies show that having confidence is highly correlated with being successful. People with confidence are more willing to take reasonable risks, take advantage of opportunities, be given opportunities, and develop relationships. 

2. Lack of confidence can be exhausting, frustrating and depressing. Yet, lack of confidence isn’t something you can easily talk about with your colleagues or your friends. 

3. You may already be a confident person, but, there are people around you every day, including supervisors, close colleagues, friends and loved ones, who are not.  Raising your awareness of how others may be feeling will make you a better leader, a better colleague, and a better friend.

There is a YouTube Video called 15 Things Most Humans Can’t Do. For example, most people can’t swallow a teaspoon of cinnamon, sneeze with their eyes open or wiggle their little toe. If you cannot do these things now, you will never be able to. The good news is that confidence can be learned. 

Some might say it’s nice to be confident but they’d rather be competent. In fact, when you ask people what it takes to be successful, many say it takes a lot of talent, hard work and some luck. This is all true, to some degree. But, assuming a basic threshold of competence, the consensus among the experts is that confidence is more important than competence as the key trait for career success.A wonderful book on this is The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

The research also shows that when people think they are good at something and radiate confidence, regardless of how good they actually are, they display verbal and nonverbal behavior that favorably influences people. 

This ability to impress others is correlated with career success and explains why confident, but less competent, people are sometimes, maybe often, promoted over their more able peers.  

What are the Four Behavioral Traits of a Confident Person?

1) People who are confident have a growth mindset. They believe strongly in the power of effort, that people are born to learn and that the mind is like a muscle — the more you work it, the more effort you put in, the smarter you become. Effort matters! A compelling study on this is Carol Dweck’s excellent book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In contrast, Dweck explains, people with a fixed mindset tend to believe that we are born with intelligence and talent, or not, and that we can’t really do much to change how intelligent we are. Effort, in other words, doesn’t really matter. 

2) Confidence requires that we have the courage to act. People often think of courage as being strong or macho. But courage is what allows people to do things even when they don’t feel strong. A short video embodies the idea of taking action despite fear and is worth watching.  

3) The third behavioral trait of a confident person is GRIT, defined as perseverance and passion in pursuit of a goal, or firmness of character; indomitable spirit. Colonel Sanders the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken had grit. At the age of 62 he set out with $105 to pitch his chicken recipe to restaurants. 1,009 people told him he was crazy, but he didn’t give up.

Grit is not just about working hard or about self-discipline. It’s about working in a deliberate, focused way over a period of time in pursuit of a goal. Practice something long enough and you may learn to like it, maybe love it, and pursue it with more energy and enthusiasm. 

4) The fourth behavioral trait of a confident person is having self-compassion —handling your missteps with kindness. We live in a success-oriented world and tend to think of failure as abnormal. But, setbacks are part of being human. We misstep on a pitch for a new client, we lose an argument in court, we misread an important change in the market. The key lesson is to learn from our mistakes and move on.

Confidence is not necessarily something you feel all the time. Like the imposter syndrome, it can come and go. It affects people of all types and backgrounds, including people in the C-Suite. 

If you’re feeling a general lack of confidence, it’s worth paying attention to. You can and should work to develop it and let it shine through for more success in your work and in life.

To learn more about authentic confidence, and applying it in your work and in your life, schedule a consultation with Margaret.