In the second of my blogs about finding your identity as a leader, I want to talk about confidence. Something recently-promoted Operations Director Frazzled Freda had in abundance in her former lead scientist role, but which seems to be eluding her in her new position. What’s gone wrong?
Let’s take a look back at Freda’s teenage years.
At school, Freda had always been seen as one of the geeky ones. She’d only really felt she fitted in when she was in her (always top set) science classes. Elsewhere, she’d often been teased as a swot. Teachers hadn’t always been helpful, either. Too many of them liked to put the children into boxes – and she was firmly in the analytical scientist kid box. She wasn’t expected to be creative, to have interesting ideas on broader topics. And because it tended to take time for her to formulate her thoughts, she’d consistently fulfilled the teachers’ low expectations by failing to come up with anything worthwhile to say in classroom discussions outside the science block.
Where most of her teachers simply moved on to the next student on getting little response from Freda, one or two preferred ritual humiliation. Mr Gregory, her 3rd year history teacher, was the worst. He’d taken a sadistic delight in picking on her first, asking what she thought, and criticising her brief responses. “A bright girl like you, Freda – is that all you can come up with?” or “Do you really think that’s the only reason?”
Had Freda’s teachers been more patient, they would have discovered her analytical skills supported a creative and insightful mind – just the combination of qualities, in fact, that were later to both make her stand out as a scientist and be spotted as potential director material. But little by little, she’d grown to believe that she really didn’t have much to contribute outside of science classes – though learning the facts was no problem.
True confidence comes from self-awareness
Freda doesn’t have the self-awareness to spot her lack of confidence as a leader comes from self-limiting beliefs she developed growing up. She’s not confident she has anything worthwhile to say outside the scientific environment; and she’s scared of being seen as stupid. She’s not at all unusual. But confidence is key to effective leadership – and it starts and ends with what’s inside your own head.
Step one to greater leadership confidence
If you’re struggling to feel confident as a leader, there may be a lot of work to do in order to identify and breakdown the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
Step one, however, is to silence your inner critic – the little judgemental voice in your head that criticises your decisions and puts doubts in your mind. Turn it into an inner sponsor; a positive voice that offers encouragement and support. And accept that you’re a work in progress – as we all are.
Want to become a more effective leader?
Developing the confidence to lead effectively is just one of the modules in my online Effective Leadership Launcher course. Blending the latest leadership thinking and neuroscience theory with practical steps you can take immediately, the Effective Leadership Launcher allows you to develop your personal leadership potential in your own time and at your own pace.