If you are like most leaders, you’ve encountered a time — or, if we are being honest, multiple times — in your career in which you felt insecure and unconfident. Perhaps your team failed to meet a deadline, or you were concerned that you would fall short of expectations in your new position. Many of the thoughts that went through your head will be familiar to many: “Am I the right person for this job?”; “Do I have what it takes?”; and “What if I can’t deliver?”
These are normal ideas. However, if unaddressed, frequent feelings of inadequacy will limit your ability to reach your full potential. “Ducking the facts about performance for fear of being judged, criticised, humiliated, and punished characterises losing streaks, not winning streaks,” leadership expert Rosabeth Moss-Kanter argues in her famous book, “Confidence.” So, how can you guarantee you are the confident leader your team need when plans don’t go as planned, outcomes aren’t met, or uncertainty makes you anxious?
Leaders are only human, and no individual is capable of knowing everything. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to know everything to be a confident leader. But you must be eager to learn.
Begin by learning to recognise your own behaviours when you are confident and when you are not. When you are feeling confident, for example, you may contribute your knowledge, question conventional wisdom at a strategy discussion, and freely ask input from team members. When you are less confident, you may hesitate to speak up in meetings, agree with the majority despite misgivings, and retreat to your office to avoid tough confrontations.
In both circumstances, consider why. Don’t settle for the first response! Instead, ask three or four times more to get to the bottom of your confidence or unease. If you are really honest with yourself, you will undoubtedly draw on your talents and limitations.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to encourage each team member to leverage their unique abilities and experiences to reach a common objective. As with any high-performing team, there will be team members whose skill sets exceed yours — this does not indicate a lack of competence on your part, but rather reflects on your ability to assemble the best team possible. If you are having difficulty recognising your skills as a leader, consider what others come to you for help with. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues how you can improve. People often notice our strengths before we do.
Expect to Be Successful. When You Can’t
Ups and downs will always be a part of your career and leadership experiences. What matters is your attitude towards each scenario. Have you missed a shot? Don’t sulk, but find out why with your coworkers. Better yet, request ongoing feedback. If you ask “why?” five times, you will get at least one explanation that will assist you avoid getting derailed the following time. Set a good example by communicating openly with your teammates and peers.
The days of expecting managers to know everything are passed. Anyone who pretends to do so will only make themselves look foolish. You gain the respect of others by constantly increasing your knowledge and skillfully blending the abilities of team members to achieve common goals. Today, effective leaders are more like facilitators. They are aware of current strengths and shortcomings; they aim to strengthen the former while addressing the latter – not by pointing fingers, but by formulating a strategy for progress.
Be Kind to Yourself
Many leaders suffer from impostor syndrome, which causes them to feel like a fake despite their apparent success. It’s easy for leaders to feel powerless and incapable in the face of fast change. Feeling overwhelmed, on the other hand, may just suggest a lack of attention. It requires tenacity to stay on track in the face of opposing ideas and rapidly shifting trends.
“I think we should come out as the flawed human beings that we all are,” author Rita Clifton says in her book “Love Your Imposter.” According to Clifton, behaving professionally does not require you to give up the sympathetic, sensitive, and quirky qualities of your personality that make you distinctive.
Instead of depending exclusively on your intuition, leverage the collective expertise of your team. Use team members’ talents and expertise to supplement your own. Before making a choice, get as many viewpoints as possible. Create the psychological safety your team requires to be vulnerable and openly share their thoughts. Bring out the best in your followers so they can make you the best leader you can be.
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