Leadership - The Confidence Connection
Jane Sanders, President, GenderSmart® Solutions
The most savvy leaders understand that their character and vision,
required for businesses to consistently compete and win, spring from their
natural gifts and strengths – their authenticity.
As people, both men and women, have aspired to leadership positions, or
simply to be the best manager they can be, many have suppressed their
natural balance of masculine-to-feminine qualities, trying to fit into the
“man’s world” of business. They have lost touch with their authenticity.
Courage and confidence are required to get it back.
Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund, also the founder of child
psychoanalysis, once said, “I used to look outside myself for strength and
confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”
The challenge for us is to dig deep enough inside to find our strength
and confidence, and then when we find it, to use it – to apply it to our
personal and professional lives. It is this confidence, found through
self-awareness, that brings us back to our authenticity.
Authenticity involves living your truth, with integrity. It gives leadership
its breath and pulse, and gives power to being real, not to being right. It
involves leading with your natural gifts and strengths, and requires
self-awareness and self-knowledge. Warren Bennis, leadership author and
guru, stated, “Effective leaders – and effective people - understand that
there is no difference between becoming an effective leader and becoming a
fully integrated human being.”
Carol Gallagher, author of Going To The Top, wrote, “Your colleagues and
bosses won’t give you credit for being genuine in business if they cannot
give you credit for being genuine as a person.” There are no standard how-to
instructions for being authentic because everyone’s authenticity is unique
to them. The key is to learn how to discover what your specific authenticity
looks like. And doing so requires confidence and self-awareness.
I define confidence as genuine self-value combined with a smartly courageous
approach to life and business. Confidence is a blend of mindset and action.
Genuine self-value requires concentrated and committed self-awareness;
courage, confidence, or courageous action, grow with self-value.
A lack of self-awareness can result in someone being risk-averse,
indecisive, a poor negotiator, rigid, aloof, defensive, or overly concerned
with getting ahead. This same person will run over employees, not delegate
enough, and generally lack integrity. Their communication may become too
harsh, weak, and ineffective; they lack intuition and creativity; and their
behavior may be inconsistent. People lacking awareness don’t promote
themselves effectively; they work in isolation and don’t tend to mentor
others; and they have trouble delivering difficult messages. Think about it
– how could these behaviors affect business results? Client relationships?
Your team? Your career? The quick and easy answer is…certainly not in a
Many tools and processes exist to help people become more self-aware. These
include self-reflection, which if taken seriously and approached in a
committed fashion can be quite insightful. Self-reflection activities can
include listing strengths, passions, skills, roadblocks, and dreams; also
considering values, personal vision, what’s draining you, how you want to be
remembered, what would feel unfinished if not completed in your life, and
many more. My From Stuck To Stellar - Life Planning workshop involves these
insightful activities and more.
Other tools for self-awareness include 360-degree feedback surveys, books,
tapes, workshops, coaching, counseling, journaling, and self-assessments.
The benefits of healthy self-awareness are numerous, and positively impact
corporate and personal environments. Self-awareness improves your
effectiveness in working with others by giving you insight into how your
behavior affects them positively or negatively. It gives you confidence in
decision-making, and helps you negotiate with others about difficult issues
more skillfully and appropriately. Self-awareness gives you more confidence
in your future, because with improved awareness of your personal vision and
values, you can more easily determine the approaches to take to achieve your
goals and to anticipate the obstacles that come your way. Self-awareness
offers you invaluable peace of mind, and provides the courage needed to take
necessary yet calculated risks.
What does this confidence, or courage, look like? Courage is not the absence
of fear, as many believe. Everyone has fear. Everyone – even the bravest
heroes. Everyone also has courage. One can’t exist without the other. Think
about it - if you didn’t have fear, you wouldn’t need courage, would you?
Keep in mind that “heroes” feel fear every bit as much as we do. Fear is
simply a reaction to new challenges. The difference is, heroes know from
experience that if they just hold onto the fear and let themselves feel it
for just one moment longer, rather than running from it or denying it,
they’ll break through to the courage on the other side. They don’t focus on
the fear - they expect it as part of what they do. And breakthrough is
exactly what it feels like to face fear and do it anyway. The pride and
thrill of pushing through fear to accomplish even the smallest feat is
unparalleled, and better yet, contagious and addictive. Once you know how
that feels, the second time is a little easier. Then you can apply those
same victorious feelings to another unrelated challenge, with equal success.
And so on!
Courage is not a gift, but a decision. A most important element of
confidence, or courage, is action. It takes action to step through fear and
the paralysis fear can create. Make the decision to act! The action module
of my confidence definition - a smartly courageous approach to life and
business - involves taking calculated risks and can look like speaking up in
an important meeting, using intuition with your boss or a client, being
decisive with all the details of your project, and acting like you have
already made it to the next level. Courageous action can involve standing up
for your convictions against opposition, diving into committed
self-awareness, telling the truth in tough situations, setting challenging
goals, or discussing a difficult topic with a big client.
To become more courageous at work, in addition to making self-awareness part
of your life, ask yourself these questions: Thinking of someone I admire and
respect, how would they handle this situation? What would happen –
emotionally, mentally, physically, career-wise – if I didn’t do it? What’s
the worst that would happen if I did do the thing/action that scares me? How
have my co-workers been courageous at work? What impressions did these
actions give me? How have I been courageous? How did my actions make me
feel? How can I be more courageous? What specific benefits will result?
Dialoguing with friends or trusted co-workers can increase the insights
discovered through this series of questions.
Successful leadership, whether professional or personal, requires
authenticity, which in turn calls for committed self-awareness. Confidence,
a key component of effective leadership, stems from self-awareness. As Lao-Tsu
philosophized, “He who knows much about others may be learned, but he who
understands himself is more powerful. He who controls others may be
powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”
|Jane Sanders, president of GenderSmart Solutions, is
an expert in gender issues and communication and helps companies create
GenderSmart cultures to retain and advance women. She is a consultant,
coach, and speaker in the areas of gender communication, recruiting &
retention of women, strategic life planning, and authentic leadership
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