How many New Year's resolutions have you thought about for 2017? I don't know about you, but some of my resolutions start out full of positive intent and never quite make it to the finish line. Here's something we can all stride into 2017 vowing to embrace—confidence.
Yes, confidence. Not confidence that's arrogant or built on unquestioning inflexibility in our opinions; rather, true self-belief in our abilities and contributions. This is integral to successful leadership.
What does confidence look and feel like? First, image and impression matter, including stance, eye contact, demeanor, and ease with written and spoken words. These capabilities may seem like a tall order, but they're absolutely doable... and half the battle. And we haven't even touched on knowledge and skills yet. Combine nonverbal and verbal poise with solid comfort in your content, and you can't help but be confident.
What if you don't feel self-assured and are afflicted with “imposter syndrome?” High achievers can sometimes be full of self-doubt, not believing that they're capable when faced with new challenges. You can do it! It's quite doubtful that you're actually living the Peter Principle (rising to the level of your incompetence). You wouldn't have been promoted or given the opportunity to lead if you didn't already demonstrate the skills. You don't have to be a genius or perfect—both lofty self-expectations of high achievers. Having room to grow shouldn't fatally rattle your self-reliance; ideally, it motivates learning and can be a positive force.
Recently, a consultant told me that if I could only pick one leadership development topic for managers, it should be sales. Sales? That's a job I thought I'd never want. After reflection, I realized that this suggestion was brilliant. We're actually “selling” every day: selling our organization's vision, goals, and initiatives to our staff, and selling our ideas to our bosses and colleagues. And what makes a good salesperson? Confidence! Knowing your stuff, having persistence, staying focused, and being able to paint the picture of why you want and need the change. A winning salesperson also loves the product while caring about you, too. These are admirable qualities.
So, is confident leadership a sales job? Your knee-jerk reaction may be “no.” So was mine, although selling is clearly part of the role. There are myriad issues we encounter and decisions we make every day that don't revolve around selling, but they do demand sound leadership. We can't approach these issues timidly and with uncertainty, which isn't to say that as a new leader, or when faced with a first-time situation, you can't ask for help. You can be confident and questioning at the same time. Asking for team input gives your staff members confidence in themselves, and you as well. Understanding when to get help and knowing your limitations seem to go hand-in-hand with being confident, avoiding the rabbit hole of self-doubt we just discussed.
Confident leaders exude positivity and courage. They believe in their teams, and those relationships make for an affirmative work environment. Their decisions are solid, their direction strong, and their approach open and welcoming. Confident leaders “push the envelope”—my first editorial exactly 3 years ago.
My New Year's wish for all of you is to get rid of self-doubt, think big, use your “sales” skills for positive influence, and enjoy being a leader. Confidence is one of the factors that will help make you love going to work every day, in 2017 and beyond.