Leadership Requires Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is a critically important component of strong leadership and an essential element of executive presence. “It’s often one of the first things we notice about someone,” said Maren Perry, executive coach and president of Arden Coaching. “It’s an overall impression about the way someone carries themself, speaks and presents their ideas, and treats others.”

Confidence comes from the latin “con” (with) and “fide” (trust). Possessing self-confidence, then, means to have trust in one’s self.

Trust in one’s self also means that you have the courage to value others and be open to their ideas and points of view. Self-confidence steers clear of the pretentious superiority of arrogance. In fact, arrogant behavior is often used by people who lack self-confidence like protective armor.

Leaders Show Their Self-Confidence

As a leader, how can you demonstrate and display your self-confidence? (For more about executive presence read Arden Coaching’s article, “The Art of Influence and Executive Presence.”)

Take a position about something you think is right, but don’t try to be perfect. We work in complex organizational environments. There is rarely an absolutely right or wrong answer. A self-confident leader brings together as much talent and information as possible, considers all options, and makes a decision.

Enthusiastically commit to your decision or point of view. A self-confident leader doesn’t second-guess themselves — they convey a positive, forward-looking sense of belief. Be upbeat and affirmative.

That said, we all make mistakes. Self-confident leaders know they’ll sometimes be wrong. What’s crucial is that they honestly acknowledge their mistakes and seek to learn from them.

Share your success and graciously accept compliments. If your team or direct reports were part of the decision —  remember bringing together as much talent and information as possible to consider all options? — then make sure they share in the resulting success. Self-confident leaders are not afraid to recognize others.

Similarly, when people compliment you on a job well done, accept the compliment and say “thank you.” We have a tendency to dismiss compliments: “oh it was nothing…no big deal.”

Begin Working on Your Self-Confidence

To start working on your self-confidence, Perry suggests you consider the following questions. Write down your thoughts. Keeping a journal can help you track the evolution of your thinking, behavior, and outcomes to grow your skills.

1. Describe a time in the past year when you took a stand to do something you believed was the best course of action?

  • How did taking that stand make you feel?
  • How did others respond to your point of view or decision?
  • What lessons can you take from this experience and apply in the future?

2. Identify something that you are currently working on that forces you to get out of your comfort zone and take some risk. How can this effort provide an opportunity to strengthen your ability to take a position about something that you think is the right thing to do? 

  • How does this effort make you feel?
  • How are others responding to your point of view or direction?
  • What lessons can you take from this experience to apply to your current work?

3. On an ongoing basis, communicate your points of view and decisions in an affirmative, optimistic manner.

  • How does this communication make you feel?
  • How are others responding to your attitude?
  • What lessons can you take from this experience to apply to your current work?

To learn more about how executive coaching can help you become more self-confident and strengthen your leadership skills, contact Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.