A leader’s lack of self-confidence is often the foundational reason for breakdowns and inconsistencies in organizational and individual leadership. Leaders who are not self-confident often manage in dysfunctional ways. For example, they may micromanage the work of others to ensure that the work is done properly and, perhaps, preserve their own reputation as leaders. Micromanagement can be founded in the need of the leader to feed his ego and reassure himself that he is not vulnerable to criticism. Believe it or not, being vulnerable and willing to be wrong comes from a place of true self-confidence. Fear and egocentricity are the traits that cause us to project and protect a façade of perfection, limiting us from being able to make mistakes – and own up to them.
Developing self-awareness is key to building self-confidence. For example, if you notice that you spend a lot of time being critical of yourself or others, ask yourself what these particular thoughts, or patterns of thinking, are telling you about the way you are orienting to your work. Develop a practice of acknowledging what you know and what you’ve done, then identify the gaps and find ways to address those. Taking action from a place of knowing is very powerful in building self-confidence and self-awareness. Start by taking the time to sit and reflect on your career. Begin making a list of the things that you’ve accomplished over your career. Now make a list of the things that you know at an expert level, with examples to support your belief. Once you’ve created this list, reflect on where you have gaps that create a lack of self-confidence. You might also look at assessments like StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath to help provide you with some clues about your strengths.
Once you have done your reflection, asking for feedback from trusted advisors and colleagues will reveal if others experience you the way you want to be experienced. Knowledge about how others experience you will help you continue to build confidence and self-awareness. Working with a coach, a mentor and others who can hold up a mirror to you in an authentic, non-judgmental way will effectively accelerate your ability to notice yourself.
“Know thyself” is an ancient Greek observation about the genesis of solving the mysteries and problems in life, and it’s as relevant today as it was centuries ago. As a leader, knowing yourself through the eyes of others will improve your effectiveness and impact, and decrease stressors and dysfunction in the workplace. The more aware you are of your drivers and motivations, the more confident you will become in your position as a leader – confidence that will reward you in positive response from your team.