By Marshall Goldsmith
I was asked what advice I have for a leader whose bosses say needs to exhibit more self-confidence while still being collaborative and authentic. This is a great question.
I rarely encounter this issue in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs because people at the top of huge organizations don’t often have self-confidence problems. But I have had several inquiries lately about helping future leaders who need to demonstrate more self-confidence.
Here are a few suggestions that I give leaders who have self-confidence issues:
1. Decide if you really want to be a leader. Many of the MBAs who report self-confidence issues are brilliant technicians. They often find the uncertainty and ambiguity of leading people very unsettling. They are looking for the “right answers” – similar to the ones in engineering school. In some cases, brilliant technical experts should continue to be brilliant technical experts – and not feel obligated to become managers.
2. Make peace with ambiguity in decision making. There are usually no clear right answers when making complex business decisions. Even CEOs are guessing.
3. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve people, then follow your gut and do what you think is right.
4. Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. All humans do.
5. Have fun! Life is short. Why should you expect your direct reports to demonstrate positive enthusiasm, if they don’t see it in you?
6. Once you make a decision, commit and go for it. Don’t continually second guess yourself. If you have to change course, you have to change course. If you never commit, all you will ever do is change course.
7. And finally, demonstrate courage on the outside, even when you don’t feel it on the inside. We are all afraid on occasion -- that is just part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to show more courage than fear. When direct reports read worry and concern on the face of a leader, they begin to lose confidence in the leader’s ability to lead.
Originally published in Harvard Business Online, 2008.
Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, measurable change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams. His latest book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, won the Harold Longman Award for best business book of 2007. Marshall invites you to visit his library (MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com) for articles and resources you can use.