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Developing Leadership Confidence is a Myth

Unless you`re a narcissist, you have experienced a lack of confidence at some point in your career, likely during a transition to a new role.  Coaching clients and their managers often ask for ‘’developing confidence’’ to be part of their leadership development plan.  And coaches, including myself, comply.  Next comes the hard part.  How do you actually help leaders develop greater confidence within a six-month coaching engagement?  What are the action steps?

Confidence is built over time by challenging oneself then meeting these challenges through gaining more knowledge and/or developing more skills. 

Through repetition and feedback, we develop greater confidence.  This takes time.

There are creative ways to accelerate the process, such as breaking down the goal into smaller tasks, rallying up a support network to provide feedback, actively seeking out training, visualizing success, and so on.  That said, all of these, perhaps with the exception of visualization, are actions toward developing greater skill.  Confidence comes as a consequence of increased skill.  Focusing directly on confidence puts the cart before the horse.

The reason this blog is titled,Developing Leadership Confidence is a Myth’, is because the coaching is focused on developing a skill and confidence comes as a consequence. But, that is not all. 

The energy behind this title, and the nugget I hope you takeaway, is that focusing on developing confidence misses the point and often backfires.  ‘’I want to develop greater confidence’’ is an ego-based approach.  It’s the ego that wants to feel more confident.  “I can do this!  I got this!  Look at me go!”

Want to ‘’develop greater confidence in an instant?’’  Stop making it about you.  Shift your focus of the activity towards something much greater than yourself.  See yourself as a servant of the organization’s mission, the organization itself or its people, the clients or customers you serve, God (if you believe) or the universe.  You do the job the best you can to serve something much greater than your ego.  In an instant, your tummy feels calmer and the excitement towards meeting the challenge is purer and often increased.

Last year I agreed to take on an assignment that was outside my comfort zone.  For six months, I studied, worked with an expert, and practiced.  The delivery was well-received, and I was asked the following year to do it again.  I resisted. My stomach tightened with butterflies, even after all that learning.  I still lacked confidence.  But I then remembered that this was not about me. This was about my mission to spread the message about the importance of leading with heart.  In an instant, the butterflies calmed and I was once again excited for the assignment.

Reach out:

Consider giving this approach a try if you are trying to gain more confidence about something.  I would love to hear from you after you do. Reach out to me here.

Learn More:

To learn more about my coaching work and leading with heart, check out my other blogs.

-Dr. Jeff Kaplan

Dr. Jeff Kaplan is a business psychologist and executive coach who coaches executives and high potentials to lead with heart. Jeff helps leaders to work more collaboratively with others, recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest asset.