From our survey analysis last week, it became evident that building leadership courage and confidence is a very important activity to become an effective leader, or at least to be recognized as one.
Courage and confidence are two different qualities. Courage is the opposite of fear, and is defined as the ability to confront (or overcome) fear. For someone who fears heights, looking down below from a balcony very high up on a skyscraper requires great courage. Similarly, it requires courage to venture out into the darkness or to confront a reptile or a wild animal. It takes great courage to make a sizeable investment, even if you take a calculated risk.
Confidence, on the other hand, is being certain that what you are proposing or attempting to do will be successful.
Take the example of the little girl about to embark on her first dive ever. Is she frightened? Absolutely. But once she musters courage and makes the first dive, then what happens?
The girl has conquered her fear. Her courage has helped her overcome fear.
For the next dive, she takes solid steps towards the diving board. She now displays confidence. This confidence stems from the fact that she has done it once. She knows exactly what the outcome will be, and does not fear it.
Robert Louis Stevenson has a famous quote: “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”
It is very important for an effective leader to display great confidence, not nervousness and fear. If as a leader you fear something, just do not let anyone in your team know. Worse still, do not let the opposition know (if you are competing, that is).
The story goes that Richie Benaud, one of the former great Australian cricket captains would always have a plan for the opposition batsmen when he was leading his team on the field. Sometimes when the batsmen would be well set at the crease and grinding the Australian bowling into the ground, Richie would stand with his hands in his pockets deep in thought. The team would look up to Richie and sense that he would now pull out another plan to work on the batsmen. More often than not, Richie would change something, either a fieldsman’s position or a bowling change, and it would work. The outward show of confidence that Richie displayed made him a highly effective leader. His team would blindly trust and almost expect something to happen. With that kind of a team behavior, something usually does happen.
Here are 5 systematic steps to building confidence:
1. Confront your fears head-on.
Don’t skirt the issue. Sometimes a task could be too challenging, intimidating and simply monumental. Bit off bit by bit and make a conscious effort to break it down and “eat the elephant”. Spend time “conquering” such fears. Other times, you may have to confront a difficult personality. It is very easy to skirt around the issue and put things off. An effective leader recognizes the need to take things on and even nip things in the bud.
2. Expect, accept and develop a love for imperfection.
Know that you are not perfect and will never be.
Occasionally something you do will be incorrect. You can accept that and move on. Learn from failures.
Other times, your information or knowledge will be incomplete. You are not expected to know it all. A confident person accepts that he/she doesn’t know it all, and admits to it. Then learn from it.
Know that your team members will never be perfect.
Accept that and strive to encourage people to take on challenges, knowing that the occasional failure is bound to happen. When that does, take the learning and move on. Don’t hang someone for failures, for then they would never embark on anything challenging. This will stifle creativity, reduce productivity and make you lose your effectiveness.
3. Develop equanimity.
Equanimity refers to staying calm under pressure. An effective leader that knows where she is headed can stay calm in the face of severe adversities and pressures. She has done it before and has full faith in her abilities and backs herself and her team to deliver. She need not get flustered, nervous or hurried. By staying calm, she displays great confidence and assurance. This gets noticed and the team draws strength from the leader. As much as this is a personality trait, this can be developed. The key is to recognize when you tend to lose your composure and then practice staying calm under similar circumstances. Of course, keeping a note of what works and what does not, in these situations helps in corrective action.
4. Enhance your self-esteem.
Analyze your past successes, work out what worked and keep those strengths or implementation methodology in mind. Look for situations to deploy those. Leverage “the power of the second time”. Replay your successes and draw inspiration and strength from them. These will enable you to project confidence.
5. Do your homework.
Always be prepared. As Karan Verma has stated, you must earn the right to speak. Actually you must earn the right to lead. Do your homework and be overprepared. Blow their minds away by your grasp of the situation, the plans you’ve chalked out, the resources you’d like to deploy, the timelines you’ve drawn up and your ability to execute on those plans.
As you start speaking, you will radiate confidence which simply stems from the effort you’ve put in.
I also found these three other web pages that relate to this topic and are interesting to go through on this topic:
Please share your thoughts on leadership courage and confidence by using the comments section below.
Image (c): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Scared_Child_at_Nighttime.jpg; Author: D Sharon Pruitt