I was eighteen years old the first time I was put into a formal leadership position as the Assistant Manager of a tuxedo store. I was young, ambitious, and excited to move up at a young age. I have always felt, and been told, I had natural leadership abilities, but this was the first time I had a formal leadership role in the workplace. I had some confidence in my character and ambition, but I started to wonder how I could grow my confidence with no experience. I was lucky to have great leaders over me who coached and developed me along the way.
Over the years, I have had the pleasure working with amazing leaders in various settings. No matter how old or young, new or experienced, I noticed there are so many great leaders who struggle with self-confidence. We all go through seasons of strong and weak performance, but our self-confidence (not cockiness) should be one of the foundational traits we have. Listed below are some of the common ways to build and grow your sense of self-confidence.
- Know Your Identity.
What do I mean by identity? Our identity is the core belief and center that shapes how we view and interact with the world. Our identity not only shapes our perspectives and ideals, but it drives the type of person we desire to become. Our identity is more than mere reputation, title, and/or status; it is the essence of who we are.
In terms of building self-confidence in leadership, knowing and understanding our identity shapes the way we think, act, and respond towards others. For me, my identity is formed in my faith. I am a Christian. My identity is formed and shaped in the person and work of Jesus Christ, and through the lens of the Bible. As a leader, no matter what I do or don’t do, it will not shake my confidence in who I am. Knowing your identity will boost your self-confidence because it provides a sense of security not determined by others or by your works.
- Strong Self-Awareness
Do you have a realistic perception and sense of self-awareness? There are so many great personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, the DISC assessment, and the Enneagram test to help you better understand your personality. Growing in self-awareness will boost your self-confidence as you began to learn more about your personality, and how you can improve as a leader.
I like doing a personal S.W.O.T. Analysis for myself and clients to help process your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for growth, and threats that keep you from growing (S.W.O.T.). Personality assessments, tools like the S.W.O.T. Analysis, and understanding how you interact with others will provide you the right place to focus for improvement. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to lead with confidence!
- New Way of Thinking
Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” A great leader is a great problem solver. In order to lead well, we must have a paradigm shift in our thinking. Stephen Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, defines this paradigm shift in thinking as principle-centered, character-based, and inside-out approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
In order to boost our self-confidence, we must have this paradigm shift in our thinking! I love Covey’s idea of “inside-out approach” to thinking. Essentially, it is analyzing how you interact within situations instead of approaching it from the outside. For example, let’s say you have an employee who is lazy and unproductive. Many leaders approach that situation and treat the symptoms. The inside-out approach would respond by asking something like, “How can I lead this employee with more hard work and model productivity?” It is a new way of thinking that does not excuse poor behavior, but increases your confidence to lead with more diligence.
- Be a Learner
Great leaders are great learners. There are so many ways to grow in self-development. I listen to podcasts, read books, go to conferences, watch and learn from others, and still continue to learn about others. Being a great learner will boost your self-confidence because it should give you a humble spirit, allow you to grow your skills, and increase exemplary actions and behaviors.
I am a leadership coach, not because I hold a book of secrets that have to be memorized, but because I am learning to tap in and empower leaders with their skills and experience. A great leadership coach is a great learner, and will leverage your skills and abilities to motivate and accelerate you towards personal and professional success. Your self-confidence grows as your wisdom and knowledge grow!
- Celebrate Internal & External Wins
Celebrate! I know so many high impact leaders who do not know how to celebrate a personal or professional victory. This is a highly critical skill for leadership and self-confidence. Imagine you are in the National Football League and your team goes to the Superbowl. You win the Superbowl, but do not celebrate because you want to get ready for next season! This sounds extreme. There are so many leaders who understand a win, but they do not celebrate the win.
A practical way to boost your self-confidence is to track wins. Set some personal goals and celebrate them! These can be internal. For example, maybe you see improvement in a skill you are developing, or growing in a personal quality that makes you a better leader. I have several clients who journal, treat themselves to a special dinner, or have a fun way to celebrate their development. Celebrate external wins too! This could be seeing a team victory, or having a major breakthrough with an employee. Discover fun ways to mark and celebrate success. This will naturally boost your confidence.
- Project Confidence
Projecting confidence is NOT, “fake it until you make it.” Projecting confidence happens in a few ways. First, dress confidently. Take pride in your appearance! There is power and truth in the psychology of dressing for success. This looks different in various environments, but the concept remains the same. Second, body language and posture. 90% of someone’s perception of you is made up in the first 30-60 seconds of your interaction!
Facing fear is real, but you cannot let fear control you. Several of my family and friends are in the military, and they were trained how to react when facing fear. Our brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode when triggered. A big part of the training was a mental shift that happened by rigorous practice, a new way of thinking, and projecting confidence! Let’s say you are terrified by public speaking. Boosting your self-confidence in this area will take rigorous practice, focused-thinking, and the ability to take and apply critical feedback. You can do all these things while projecting confidence.
- Help and Empower Others
Leadership is about helping and empowering others to achieve a common goal or purpose. Your self-confidence will grow as you lead well, and see others achieve success! This will naturally increase their confidence in you as a leader. We talked about celebrating internal and external wins. That is another way to help and empower others!
As a leader, you want to position people for success. This is a win-win-win situation. The company wins by having multiple empowered people leading up towards success. The people you help and empower win because they now have the confidence and freedom to perform successfully. You as the leader wins because you are empowering others and leading the company towards success. Your confidence will accelerate rapidly as you help and empower others achieve success.
- Ask for Help
Do not skim over this one! Asking for help is a critical skill for high impact and successful leaders. Confident leaders know what they know and what they don’t know and are not afraid to ask for help. This has to be a part of the paradigm shift in our thinking. We must stop seeing asking for help as a sign of weakness, and start seeing it as part of development. When I was a young Assistant Manager at the tuxedo store, I did not want to ask for help. I believed I had to prove myself, but lucky for me, I had some great leaders who taught me how to ask good questions. A great leader is a learner, and we should never stop learning!
Growing in self-confidence greatly relies on you. All of these tips for growing in self-confidence and development are largely in your control. You can do it! If you need help in one or multiple of these areas, go find a seasoned leader to mentor and coach you. Many of these areas can be improved by attending specialized classes, or hiring a professional coach to empower and develop you! As a Professional Leadership Coach, I work with leaders in all positions to equip, empower, and encourage them to grow to their fullest potential. I get to celebrate wins with them as they crush personal and professional barriers keeping them from achieving success. Do not wait! I encourage you to keep going, and you will see your self-confidence grow at a rapid rate!
Written by Jonathan Rector
Executive Leadership Coach