Inclusive leaders are calm, cool, and collected. They exude authentic confidence, even when they may not feel it themselves.
Confidence is foundational. If you do not believe in your own unique strengths and purpose, it will be difficult for others to buy into to you as a leader. It can truly be game changing when you express the appropriate level of confidence. I often hear from leaders that they wrestle with confidence themselves, and often have a team member or two that may need a little confidence boost. I believe this is an area we can continuously improve and evolve as leaders. When done right, it can be game changing.
There are three simple steps I have seen work for successful leaders. To express confidence, first, know who and what fuels your confidence, second, surround yourself with people and experiences that reinforce your confidence, and third, proactively seek out those people and experiences that challenge your confidence. The idea here is to leverage your self-awareness of your own confidence, then reinforce and challenge it through people and experiences. Confidence does not happen in a vacuum, it evolves over time. You can be on top of your game one minute, and then something or someone can rock it, if you let them. I challenge you to put yourself in situations that may be uncomfortable to maintain that confidence. Get out of the comfort zone. It’s time to embrace the challenge. It fuels your confidence once you break through barriers and succeed.
Know who and what fuels your confidence
Reflect a bit, and think about, who are the people that help you recognize your strengths and discover your passions and purpose? Knowing this is pivotal. Chances are you have a strong following of some sort. People you have worked with in the past, family members, childhood friends, networking contacts are possibilities. They can come from anywhere. They often are the people in your life that make you feel good when you have a bad day, or offer words of encouragement when you need it. These people are vital to your confidence.
Likewise, you are shaped by your experiences. Think about the experiences throughout your career, which ones fueled your confidence. For me, knowing my DiSC style and StrengthsFinder results, being high D and an achiever, results really matter for me. For better or worse, results drive me, they fuel and unfuel my confidence every day. A few years ago, I remember reflecting on this. I was growing impatient with my career. I was not advancing as fast as I wanted and really let it take a toll on my confidence. It was a vicious circle. The less results I achieved, the less confidence I had. It was self-perpetuating. I realized through my career coach that I need to diversify my sources of confidence beyond just results.
For me, it’s now more about being a good mother, earning the respect of my husband and mentors. It far more than just results. I recommend you tap into your sources of confidence – the people and experiences that shape you – and really dig deep and explore at least three to five for each people and experiences.
Surround yourself with those people and experiences
Let’s take your confidence a little further, and add some more fuel to it. Think about these people and experiences, and brainstorm common interests with those people, plan times to connect with them more regularly, or create a networking group with others that will also drive confidence. I love the idea of accountability partners. Those people that fuel confidence are fantastic accountability partners. An accountability partner is there to share successes, ideas, and challenges with. My clients often use them for workout or weight loss motivation. It’s someone to check in with and hold you accountable. For experiences, I recommend really digging here for common themes. Perhaps it is being prepared.
For me, it was results. Once you know the source, you can capitalize on it like crazy. It needs to be a part of the routine. It needs to be a part of everything you do if that truly drives confidence. For my results driver, I need to have goals to set expectations and metrics to measure the results to be more confident in everything I do. I have a vision board with weekly and monthly goals to do this. I cannot tell you how confident I feel when I check something off the list. The achiever in me beams. Live the sources of confidence. Make it the norm.
Positive affirmations are also an excellent tool to express more confidence. Some of my clients have mentioned gratitude journals, or a log of what they are grateful for. It can be a great habit to start the day, or a visual to display in your office or home. One of my favorite affirmations is to surround myself with positive people. I have it on my wall to remind me. The impact of positivity is game changing. Naysayers are not likely to be the types of people that fuel our confidence.
Proactively seek out those people and experiences that challenge your confidence
Speaking of naysayers, those that challenge you can have quite an effect on your confidence. Rather than give your power to them, harness it and regain control of it. My career coach often reminded me that only I have the control of my own confidence. I remember thinking about this, and realizing how silly it was that I would consciously let someone else derail my hard earned confidence. Some of my clients have shared stories about the bully that often railroaded the team with his or her ideas, others shared it was someone that they really respected and admired, but felt so inferior to. It can come from anyone or anything. With self-awareness, comes the realization of confidence awareness. When it gets shaky, take a timeout, and discovery why. Maybe it’s someone or something that is taking you off track.
Once you know who and what challenges your confidence, retake control of it. A client recently shared the superman pose with me, not to be confused with the yoga pose. She said that it really did fuel her confidence. To do it, place your hands on your hips with your elbows forming triangles. I recommend you try it for a day and do it as much as possible, and take an assessment of your confidence at the end of the day. It’s remarkable. As a facilitator of leadership development, I consciously do this at least 20 times in a given day. It not only boosts my confidence, but it prevents me from distracting the audience with my hands and keeps my posture tall and poised.
One more tool, be vulnerable. This seems a bit counter-intuitive. Just like with the naysayers, turn a negative into a positive. People respond to vulnerable leaders. No one is perfect, and people like to feel needed. Sharing with others, I am good at X, but not so good at Y, is totally fair. I often share my vulnerabilities with my clients. I am not so good with details. So, I ask for help with this. I smile when I say it, and hold my head high. I acknowledge the weakness, but I do not focus on it for long. What’s powerful about this, is once people see you are willing to admit vulnerability, they feel safe and empowered to do the same. We build trust, and make others feel important. Those naysayers do not stand a chance against that.