According to research, confidence is one of the key leadership traits of great leaders. (Northouse, 2020)
Confidence is closely connected to self-esteem and often gets mixed up.
Before looking at the problem, let’s quickly define these important aspects of leadership.
While confidence is about trusting in our abilities, self-esteem is about valuing ourselves for who we are.
Confident leaders are secure in their leadership abilities, feel good about their role, and trust that they can achieve their goals.
Leaders with high self-esteem are secure in who they are, know their worth and believe that they are valued and respected independent from their position or role.
Self-esteem is not connected to our abilities as we might feel good about ourselves even though we’re not good in maths, for example.
Therefore, we can be highly confident as a leader while we have low self-esteem, and vice versa. We might know what we’re doing at work but once we look in the mirror we are reminded of our insecurities.
However, both are interrelated. If we lack confidence in an area, we might develop a belief about who we are. For example, if we are not confident to speak publicly, we might start thinking – or confirm the previously formed belief – that we are not good enough as a leader.
The following graph outlines this well:
Both confidence and self-esteem impact the way we lead ourselves and others.
If we don’t trust and value ourselves, how can our people trust and value us?
Confidence and self-esteem are attractive and contagious. They help us not only to connect with our people but to build both within them as well.
If we want our people to be confident and value themselves, we need to lead the way. We need to trust and value them.
Now, here’ the question: How much confidence do I need and how highly should I think of myself to be an effective leader?
I can hear some of you scream while you read this, NOT TOO MUCH PLEASE!
And that’s exactly the problem. Both too much and too little confidence can be detrimental to our leadership.
There are quite a few articles saying that confidence alone is not the solution anymore (if it ever was) and that we need to consider lowering it. (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2020)
While the self-help industry has been claiming for decades that you can achieve anything if you only believe it, studies show that confidence alone won’t get you there. (Kremer, 2013)
A study on Competence vs Confidence in IT Project Leadership (Carlton, 2017) shows that complex IT projects have failed due to overconfident leaders who overestimate their abilities in areas where they lack competence. Carlton argues that “over the last 30 years confidence has replaced competence. Positive thinking has replaced knowledge.”
That leads me to replace my previous question. Instead of ‘How much confidence do I need?’ let’s ask ‘WHEN should I be confident in my abilities?’
Here is a rather simple answer now. Be confident when you know what you’re doing – when you are competent!
We need to understand that confidence is situational. Just because we’re confident in one area doesn’t mean that we always need to be confident.
Let’s have a look at a few different scenarios and how we can balance our confidence:
When you lack confidence ineffectively:
When you’re too confident:
When you lack confidence effectively:
Let’s be the kind of leaders that are confident in the area where we are competent AND foster confidence in the people we lead in their areas of competency.
Here are two simple steps to develop confidence
I hope this blog post inspires you to become the BEST leader YOU can be, and to develop as much confidence as you need to be the effective leader in your sphere.
Looking forward to your thoughts, comments or questions.