How did you build the confidence to lead others, especially when you have made a mistake?
The very first experience I remember of having a real desire to be a leader goes back to being a Patrol Leader for Boy Scouts. At the time I felt that if I was in charge then there wouldn’t be mistakes during campouts or other activities. I had the desire to better the system and help it to be more cohesive. I ultimately wanted a more positive experience for all my friends which pushed me into my first leadership role.
One of the most significant leadership roles I have experienced was being a CEO for 22 years. It was my first and only CEO job and I can tell you that I am now completely different than when I started. My view of leadership has evolved, as well as my confidence level. I think that as we grow as individuals, we can sometimes face a bit of imposter syndrome where we feel like we aren’t enough; we might think we are not smart enough, in shape enough, or experienced enough to be qualified for a job. I would often ask myself why am I giving this person advice or how am I going to be able to help this person. What can I contribute to better this organization or the people I am working with?
I feel that this can be a manifestation of the human condition. If we are depleted, tired, stressed, or have a crisis in our lives then it’s as if we have a one-way negative filter and all that we experience and see is negative. We can also have a voice of inadequacy that begins to become louder and louder. One way to help turn down your voice of inadequacy and build your confidence up, is to take care of yourself. I mean take really good care of yourself. Otherwise, you could be spending your time trying to figure out ways to compensate or adapt to the negative self-talk inside your head telling you that you aren’t good enough. This can lead to dysfunctional behaviors or bad habits that can be used to cope with feeling inadequate in your leadership role.
If you shift away from your ego and toward serving people, you can start building a quiet confidence that is founded on experience and hard work instead of bravado confidence that may be more of a bluff to hide a lack of confidence. Don’t get me wrong, occasionally there are times when you will have to act like you know what you’re doing, even if you’re not sure. When you are working to serve people, you are also building the trust of those around you. By gaining their trust you make it easier for them to be able to follow your lead, even if you aren’t quite sure what you are doing.
Being a leader comes with a lot of responsibility. No one can know how to do everything. There will be things that no one will want to do and there may be times when there isn’t a right or wrong answer. It will take confidence to pick a path even if you aren’t sure what the best path is. There are many real-life problems that we don’t have the answer to which requires us to stick to our values, as well as put trust in those around us as we make decisions.
All leaders will make mistakes, but it is how those mistakes are handled that matters. The sign of a confident leader is the ability to acknowledge that you hoped for a different outcome, but you did the best with what you had. Someone that is going to fail over time as a leader is one that didn’t face their mistakes or take responsibility for them. Mistakes are painful things that help us learn, so let’s not miss the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and use those lessons on our journey to become A Leader Worth Following.