April 25, 2017

Lesson #12: Confidence — How Much Do You Have?

It takes guts to swagger into a room and rally people to a common cause. It take courage to march ahead even when faced with uncertainty about the road to take. It take talent to mentor and teach others what to do. What all of these actions have in common is they take a lot confidence to pull off.

Confidence in a leader is essential. Without it, supporters will second guess each and every decision, every direction, every strategy and even every bump in the road. To be confident in ones ability is so important that it and it along can carry you through many a turbulent time.

Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is unmerited confidence or more simply, believing something or someone is correct when they are clearly not. You never want to be an arrogant leader because that will be the surest way to being marginalized.

The kind of leader you want to be is confident in your skills, direction and team. Nothing says confidence like the ability to articulate your vision.

The Power of Vision

Vision. Simply put, your vision is where you are going. It’s the big idea that spurs you and your supporters on. Without vision, no leader can harness the required resources, commits and enthusiasm to achieve.

Delivering your vision, in a clear, concise and passionate way, will demonstrate how confident you are in your direction. This is important for the following reasons:

  • Demonstrates focus: Your vision should be focused and concise. This allows your supporters to not be easily distracted.

  • Imparts passion: By stated a clear vision, you automatically become passionate about it since it reinforces your initial commitment.

  • Creates enthusiasm: You want your vision to generate enthusiasm in others so that they come join your cause. By articulating your vision, you give people a clear way to take action.

  • Sets the tone: A well defined and articulated vision demonstrates what you accept from others. The delivery also sets the tone of how to move forward.

  • Shows your thought process: Vision needs explanation. The process you used to arrive at your vision will allow others to get a glimpse of how you make decisions.

Vision is how you incapsulate your confidence in your direction. It’s an important part of building that bond with your supporters.

If you lack confidence, your vision will come across weak. Your supporters will soon lose interest and pursue other activities.

Building Your Confidence

Building confidence is actually easier than you think. Most of us lack confidence in some aspects of our lives. Whether it’s public speaking, small group discussions, team leadership, romance or our writing.

Confidence building starts with realizing that the fear of failure is why your confidence is low. Think about it for a second. Confidence is your inner feeling that you know the right thing to do or say or what’s true. If you don’t, then you fear that others will challenge your knowledge or in other words, you will fail.

This is a subtle thing but self-confidence really boils down to how you compare yourself to what others think of you or whether or not they think you are a failure. That’s a tough bar to rise to since you don’t know what everyone is thinking or feeling about you. Frankly, most people really don’t judge us that much anyway — we just think they do.

Let’s take a look at a 4 step process to explore why you lack confidence, build it up and then grow your confidence daily.

Step #1: Get to Know Yourself

A lot of our confidence problems stem from our attitudes about ourselves. We judge ourselves rather harshly when we look around and compare ourselves to others. Once we recognize this, it’s much easier to deal with. To help you dig a little deeper into yourself, try some of the techniques below:

  • Explore confidence low and high points: By understanding when your confidence is low or high, you can start to see patterns in behaviors and situations.

  • What are your values: What you stand for is a big part of confidence because it’s the internal yard stick for how you will measure yourself.

  • How do you judgement others: Are you overly judgmental? Do you jump to conclusions about others that lack confidence? Judgement of others can give you clues as to where your low confidence might come from.

  • Apply your own standards: A major part of confidence is judging ourselves against others. Building confidence means resisting these comparisons by only comparing yourself to yourself.

  • Listen to your inner dialogs: Our gut feelings and self-talk reveal our inner thoughts and insecurities. By tuning into these dialogs, we can overcome a lot of confidence issues.

  • Meditate: Inner dialogs become louder when we take the deliberate time to listen to ourselves. Mediation, even for 10 minutes, allows us to focus on that inner voice.

Step #2: Approach All Situations In A Positive Way

We are surrounded by negativity in all it forms. From the news, to our relationships, most of us, almost always, focus on the negative while overlooking the positive. This manifests itself in discussions about what went wrong, how we could have done better and what we need to change in our lives.

It’s perfectly acceptable to want to improve but to dwell on it, day after day, does not help your confidence at all. To combat this, try these approaches to situations and see how they improve your confidence.

  • Be gracious: Accepting compliments, understanding the feelings of others and helping out when you can are all acts of graciousness. By being gracious, you immediately exude confidence.

  • Smile: Almost all tense situations can be diffused with a smile. Smiling is a universal sign of friendship and kindness. Smiling also shows that you are approaching the situation in a positive manner.

  • Take care of your appearance: Grooming and dress are simple ways to project confidence. Being well groomed and appropriated dressed shows others that you are confident in your appearance.

  • Strive for the win-win: Confident people know that they have something to offer and also expect to be treated fairly and with respect. If all your interactions are looking to make everyone successful, that just reinforces how you want others to treat you.

  • Adjust to negative results: Negativity is all around us. Your reaction to negativity will affect your confidence, especially if you let it drag you down. The person who adjusts to negative situations and tries to make them positive has confidence in their abilities to react and overcome.

  • Show enthusiasm: Confidence is mostly about you and your attitudes towards yourself. Enthusiasm is more outwardly facing toward a person, event or topic. Having enthusiasm can also be seen as having confidence, even if your confidence is low.

Step #3: Error on the Side of Doing

Action is essential. By doing, we demonstrate our confidence in our abilities. Without action, we have no feedback on our skills or approach.

Too often, our low self-confidence prevents us from action. We second guess ourselves, fear failure and don’t want to be embarrassed. Those are all valid outcomes but the worst possible outcome is being marginalize by inaction.

A doing mindset will automatically raise your self-confidence by giving you concrete actions that were successful and failures to work on. By acting, you can breakaway from your low self-confidence by learning that failure is an option and it’s not the end of the world. Try a few of these techniques to error on the side of doing.

  • Focus on the incremental: Break up big challenges or large projects into smaller parts. This will allow you to get those small wins that will build your confidence.

  • Contribute to a cause: Being part of something bigger than yourself will build your confidence simply by being around others that share a common goal.

  • Admit when your wrong and move on: The more you do, the more you may fail or get it wrong. Just accept that you will screw up sometimes. Quickly admit fault and move on.

  • Act first, analyze later: Detailed analysis is necessary for complex projects or decisions but not always necessary to get started. Trying something is much quicker and effective than analyzing the situation to death.

Step #4: Be Intellectually Curious

We talked about curiosity in the last lesson and found that it’s a vital part of leadership. It’s also a critical component of your confidence because low confidence has a warm, happy place at the fringe of your knowledge. This fringe is the messy, squishy unknown where your confidence is low simply because you have little to no experience.

This frontier has tremendous potential for growth and confidence building. To widen your frontier of knowledge and your confidence, consider the items below as map to understanding the great unknown:

  • Learn new things: Try everyday to learn something new. By learning, you build a database of knowledge that will build your confidence.

  • Strengthen your skills: We are all good at something. Whatever your something is, work on making it better. You can also work on your weaknesses once you have your strengths finely honed.

  • Study history: Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. By studying history, you get a perspective on how decisions and events came about. That knowledge will be valuable when you have to deal with similar situations.

  • Teach, Mentor or Coach: Teaching, mentoring or coaching others is a great way to boost your confidence. Helping others will also show you that everybody has some sort of confidence problem that needs to be overcome.

In order to be a leader, you need to have confidence in your abilities. Building your self-confidence is a constant process that will never end. All leaders have to deal with confidence issues at some point, so don’t beat yourself up if your confidence is lacking right now.

Be proactive. Be bold. Be assured that with hard work you can be the confident leader you know you are.

Take-a-way: Leaders aren’t born confident — their confidence comes from achievement and a sense of purpose

Things to Ponder

  1. Write down the 3-5 situations where you have low confidence. Next to each one, right down 1-2 reasons why your confidence is low. Circle the common reasons. See any patterns? Take the most common reason and develop a plan to fix it.

  2. Repeat #1 but this time, write down high confidence situations. Figure out how you can use the high confidence situations to improve the low confidence ones.

  3. At your next meeting or event, make it a point to smile (assuming it’s not a somber event). Make eye contact with everyone in the room. Say at least one comment or suggestion during the meeting.

  4. Write down your beliefs. Next to each one, write down the reasons for the belief. Do any of the beliefs reduce your confidence? Any increase it?

  5. The next time you feel anxious about doing something, find the courage to just do it. Don’t think about it, just act. Write a paragraph or two about the results, good or bad.

Exploring Further


This post is part of a series called Leading from Within, a FREE course on how to lead your most important supporter — you. If you landed here via other means (like Google, Twitter or a friend), you can learn more about the course and sign up here.