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The Importance of Self-Confidence as a Leader

Most people would say that self-confidence is a critical attribute for any leader’s success.

It supports some of the most important work that leaders do, like:

    • Effectively communicating their vision
    • Inspiring their team
    • Making tough decisions
    • Facing and overcoming challenges
    • Taking calculated risks
    • Supporting innovation
    • Taking advantage of opportunities

But most leaders would say, there are times when they don’t feel as confident, or at all confident.

Challenging Times for Self-Confidence

As I look back at the leaders I’ve coached and mentored in the past few years, I believe there are 5 key situations when self-confidence can be harder to command.

1. First time

It’s easier to feel confident when we’re undertaking familiar activities.

Whenever we’re doing something for the first time, we can feel unsure of ourselves. Maybe we lack knowledge, information, experience or practice of the new situation.

Leaders new to their roles will often lack the confidence that comes with more experience. When we feel out of our depth, it can be paralysing.

Activities such as holding a first team meeting can be hugely intimidating to a newly appointed manager.

Experienced leaders who have previously not had exposure to a particular area or activity may feel the same way, due to fear, doubt or uncertainty. That can be uncertainty about the task, the action needed, their abilities or the approach that’s most appropriate.

For example, presenting to the Leadership Team or the Board, or deciding how budget cuts will be made.

There can be internal and external pressure to get it right, and it can also feel as if ‘we should be able to do it’.

2. Fear of failure

Leaders often hold themselves back because they fear failure. This can prevent them from taking risks or making bold decisions. When the culture of an organisation or an individual’s manager is unsupportive of them, this fear can be exacerbated.

In some cases, a fear of failure can also be paralysing.

Those with a perfectionist streak might not start the work at all unless they believe they can do it perfectly. For procrastinators, the fear of failure is often what delays them starting their work.

3. The Inner Critic

Leaders who engage in negative self-talk will often be giving themselves a hard time or beating themselves up.

On many occasions I’ve seen this pattern from those with excessively high standards for themselves and for others, making it even less likely that they will be able to be satisfied with the outcome. (OK yes, that was me!)

Those who judge themselves harshly or feel like imposters in their roles will have to fight hard to maintain their confidence against the relentless voice of their inner critic.

They will struggle, particularly because they have a tendency to focus on their weaknesses rather than their strengths.

4. Not in control

Feelings of uncertainty and anxiety arising when we don’t feel in control can also erode our self-confidence.
However some leaders feel have high control needs and try to control too much.

This can lead to poor decision-making, decreased motivation, and a negative impact on our team.

Becoming aware of this and letting go of control in an appropriate manner is an important step to take for successful leadership.

Becoming More Self-Confident – Don’t Go It Alone

It’s important for leaders to recognize and address what’s going on with their self-confidence, and where challenging feelings may be coming from.

Coaching is a powerful way of getting to the bottom of this.

Many people I’ve coached have tried for years to develop themselves and ‘go it alone’ but it’s not until they work with me in the coaching room that they a) become more self-aware, b) understand themselves better, c) learn different ways and d) begin to change in the way they want to change.

How To – 6 Tips

Here are some tips on how to be more self-confident as a leader:

1. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Recognize your strengths and trust yourself to make good decisions.

2. Be prepared. Knowledge and preparation can help boost your confidence in any situation.

3. Take risks. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you grow and gain confidence.

4. Mentally prepare a bigger picture perspective. What’s the worst that could happen? Is it really that bad if things go wrong?

5. Ensure you have identified positive and supportive people who encourage and uplift you and talk to them regularly.

6. Practice self-care. Taking care of your physical and mental health and increasing your levels of self-empathy can help you feel more confident and capable.



Remember, self-confidence takes time and practice to develop, but with consistent effort, you can become a more confident leader.


If you found this article helpful and want to know more about how coaching can support leadership self confidence, do get in touch: suzanne@theinnerpotential.com

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Contact Suzanne Pullen +44(0)7483 235068 if you wish to discuss this post or any of the services The Inner Potential has to offer