Why Confidence is Required to Be a Successful Leader

Group of friendly businesspeople with male leader in front

To be successful in almost anything requires confidence, leadership included. 

Brand new research from Predictive Index’s 2021 People Management Report asked a series of questions around what makes a world-class manager. They found that the #1 skill employees value from their managers is confidence.

Most people know confidence is essential, but it’s fascinating to learn how important it is in today’s business environment. 

I asked Blake Bozarth why confidence is so critical for leaders today, and he said, “If you don’t have confidence in yourself, how can anyone else? When you’re confident in who you are, your gifts and strengths, and the mission you’re on, it’s contagious.” To take Bozarth’s wise words a step further, confidence breeds followership and increases influence. 

Confidence breeds followership and increases influence

As easy as this is to say, everyone from Olympic Athletes to high-performing CEO’s has struggled with confidence at one time or another. The reason is simple, most people don’t know what it is, what it isn’t, and how to develop it.  

What’s Confidence and How is it Developed?

Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” Ford was talking about confidence, which is best defined as the belief in oneself and one’s ability to succeed. It comes from a Latin word meaning “to have full trust.”

Confidence is not cockiness or arrogance. It is not masking gaps inside by portraying something different on the outside. Confidence in leadership isn’t ‘Every team member loves me,’ confidence is ‘I will be a great leader to them even if they don’t.’

Confidence in leadership isn’t ‘Every team member loves me,’ confidence is ‘I will be a great leader to them even if they don’t.’

I have learned studying, coaching, and working with great leaders is confidence is built through consistent daily repetition. On a recent episode of The Ringers, “Flying Coach Podcast” with Sean McVay, Pittsburgh Steeler Head Coach Mike Tomlin described perfectly how confidence is developed, “confidence is steeped in the work.”

Here are a few proven strategies if you are ready to do the work required to build authentic confidence as a leader that will attract people to follow you.

1. Visualize Yourself as a Great Leader.

The mind is a powerful thing. Every achievement started as an idea and a vision in someone’s mind. What I have learned is, how leaders think about themselves will shape their future. 

How leaders think about themselves will shape their future.

The Journal of Consulting Psychology outlined an experimental study of visualization techniques, and the results were pretty amazing. They studied two groups of job seekers. Both groups were exposed to the same career counseling and interview coaching, but the second group also learned visualization techniques. 

Within two months of training, there was a 45 percent increase in the second group getting employment versus the first group. Leaving no doubt about the power of visualization. 

If you want to grow your confidence, you have to visualize yourself as a great leader first. 

2. Be Curious and Listen. 

The best leaders have wisdom to share and are fantastic problem solvers, but their curiosity and listening skills allow both of those things to come to fruition. I was a guest on The Tie Podcast, and I told host Walker Simas, “if I could impart anything on young people, it’s to be curious and to listen. You will be amazed at what happens in your life.”

Just this week, I sat in a meeting with a highly successful Vice President in a Fortune 100 company with 25 years of experience. I watched as she diligently took notes, asked curious questions, and listened for over two hours at an elite level. Not only was it impressive, but it allowed her to communicate with conviction when she spoke. 

Model your behavior after her and allow your curiosity and listening skills to build confidence daily. 

3. Leverage Specific Kinds of Daily Affirmations. 

Building confidence begins with the words you tell yourself every day because the words you say to yourself are the most important words you say. 

The words you say to yourself are the most important words you say

Affirmations are a great place to start. An affirmation is a formal declaration of emotional support or encouragement. Instead of telling yourself, “I am good enough” or “I am worthy enough,” add to the statement WHY you are good enough or WHY you are worthy. It would sound like this, “I am worthy of being a great leader because I care more about others’ success than my own.” 

4. Strengthen Your Words. 

While adding words of affirmation is a great place to start, you also must eliminate the words that protect you from failure because they are setting you up for it. 

Most managers are afraid of failure or being negatively judged for an idea. To cope, they try to soften the blow by saying, “I am going to try…” or “I might be able to…” or “We might.” Instead, replace those with courageous words like, “I am going to…” or “We will…” or “We can…”  

5. Filter The Words of Others. 

As Lou Holtz said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” If you rely on developing confidence from other people’s praise, you are in a dangerous spot.

Since you can’t control what others say, it’s important to take others’ words with a grain of salt. Remember, confidence comes from within, so allowing others’ words to dictate your feelings isn’t true confidence.  

Closing

Confidence is crucial for both short-term and long-term leadership success. Stop hoping or pretending you have it. Your consistent daily repetitions and steeping yourself in the hard work of leadership will provide it.

Free Downloadable Coaching Cheatsheet There is nothing easy about coaching. So we put together a list of eight of the best coaching questions to help you. Download it for free here.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades

How to Believe in Yourself in Order to Lead

Wooden chess pawn with king shadow

“Without self-belief, there is no leadership.”

In season 26 episode 4, John Eades covers the important topic of developing your self-belief. 


Listen on iTunes


Your self-belief is one of the most critical factors in determining how successful you will be in life. But don’t just take it from me. Some of the all-time greats in business and sports have shed some light on the importance of belief and confidence.

Quotes to Remember About Self-Belief

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

Henry Ford

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Arthur Ashe

“To excel at the highest level—or any level, really—you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.”

Stephen Curry

Confidence is the most important single factor in this game.

Jack Nicklaus

What is Belief?

Researchers have had a difficult time agreeing on a common definition of belief. To ensure we are on the same page, here is my favorite: A belief is nothing more than a reinforced pattern in your brain.

This is important because it shows that we aren’t born with beliefs; they are developed when certain things are reinforced and become a pattern in our brain. The reason this is such a big deal is that you can reprogram your brain to reinforce new patterns.

Bandura’s Theory

There has been some incredible work done in the last 50 years about self-belief and why it’s so important. Positivepsycology.com has been leading the way. In a recent article, they detail the work of Dr. Albert Bandura and what came to be known as Bandura’s Theory.

Bandura’s theory states that self-efficacy is built on one’s beliefs in the likelihood of future success; those who believe they have the ability to influence the events of their lives have high self-efficacy, while those who feel they are not in control and have little to no impact on what will happen to them in the future have low self-efficacy (Bandura, 1977).”

The key here is you must own your beliefs.

How to Improve Your Self-Belief

Recognize Negative Thoughts.

We all have negative thoughts that pass through our heads. Instead of trying to ensure we never have them, the key is not to give them oxygen.   Simply recognize the thoughts for what they are and replace them with something better. This will allow positive beliefs to become a reinforced pattern in our brain instead of the negative ones.   

Challenge Yourself to Do Something You Have Never Done.

A coaching client I was working with is one of the highest achievers I have ever met, but she was struggling with belief during the pandemic. Instead of allowing this struggle to continue, I reminded her, nothing will grow belief more than achievement.  She loved this idea, so she challenged herself to do something outside of her comfort zone. 

Now only did she sign up for the Ultimate Leadership Academy, but she committed to making ten prospecting calls a day with a new attitude and a new script. It wasn’t until her fifth day that the challenge paid off. She closed one of her most significant accounts to date all because she challenged herself to achieve.

Embrace the Failure.

Since achievement improves belief, challenging yourself to do things you have never done will inevitably result in some degree of failure. While those failures hurt at the moment, “Failure is not final, failure is feedback.” 

Show you courage and determination to not allow those failures to make you quit. Instead turn them into to fuel to keep you learning and growing. Winston Churchhill famously said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Closing

Beliefs are nothing more than a reinforced pattern in your brain. To lead yourself and others, it requires a pattern of good thoughts being reinforced on an ongoing basis. One of my favorite strategies to help with this is a simple phrase you can say to yourself every morning, “I am built for this.” Give it a try each day, so it becomes a new pattern in your brain.

Virtual Building the Best Leader Workshop For the first time, we are offering the Building the Best Leader Workshop virtually on July 28th-29th from 1:00-3:30 EST! If you lead a team, now is the time to elevate the way you lead Register Here.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

5 Essential Strategies to Boost Your Confidence

Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are right.” 

Ford was talking about confidence. As his quote suggests, confidence is crucial for any type of success, especially in business. If confidence is so important, why do so many people struggle with it?

If you are going to build confidence, it starts with understanding exactly what confidence is and what it isn’t. It’s best described as the belief in one’s self and one’s ability to succeed. It comes from a Latin word meaning, “to have full trust.” 

Confidence is not cockiness or arrogance. It is not masking a hole inside by portraying something else on the outside. As I covered in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, confidence is a genuine belief in yourself that comes from within, and it’s more crucial than ever.  

If you want to build your confidence each day, start by using these five strategies.

Visualize yourself at the top.

The mind is a powerful thing. Everything that has been achieved started as an idea in someone’s mind.

How you think will determine your future

The Journal of Consulting Psychology outlined an experimental study of visualization techniques and the results were pretty amazing. They studied two groups of job seekers. Both groups were exposed to the same career counseling and interview coaching, but the second group also learned visualization techniques. 

Within two months of training, there was a 45 percent increase in the second group getting employment versus the first group. Leaving no doubt about the power of visualization. 

If you want to grow your confidence, you have to visualize yourself at the top. Close your eyes and see it like it’s happening to you well before it actually does.  

Leverage specific kinds of affirmations. 

Confidence starts with the words you tell yourself every day. Affirmations are a great place to start. An affirmation is a formal declaration of emotional support or encouragement. 

While this is so important, any old affirmation isn’t good enough. Instead of telling yourself, “I am good enough” or “I am worthy enough,” add to the statement WHY you are good enough or WHY you are worthy. It would sound like this, “I am good enough because I have already hit rock bottom.” or “I am worthy of being a great leader because I care more about others’ success than my own.” 

Strengthen your words. 

While adding words of affirmation is a great place to start, you also must eliminate the words that protect you from failure (they’re setting you for it). Most people are afraid of failure. To cope, they try to soften the blow of failing by setting themselves up for the fall. 

They’ll say things like, “I am going to try…” or “I might be able to…”. Instead, replace those words with, courageous words like, “I am going to…” or “I will…” or “I can…”  

Always look for a positive.

If you look hard enough at anything you do, you can find something you could have done better. If that wasn’t enough, you could always find someone else who has achieved more, has more or won more. The opportunity to be negative and look for flaws is plentiful.  

There is nothing wrong with striving for more. But if you are working on building your confidence, you must always look for as many positives in each situation as possible. This reinforces to your mind that you are doing things well and moving in the correct direction even if the macro result isn’t what you want.  

Filter The Words of Others. 

As Lou Holtz said, “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” If you are reliant on gaining confidence from the words others say to you, you are in a dangerous spot.

Since you can’t control what others say, it’s important to take others’ words with a grain of salt. Remember, confidence comes from within so allowing others words to dictate how you feel isn’t real confidence.  

Confidence is crucial for both short-term and long-term success. Stop hoping or pretending you have it and put these fives moves into play starting today. 

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

Preorder the Book: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is being published by McGraw-Hill and is due out on November 15th. Preorder today and receive over $200 in gifts including the first two chapters immediately, Acts of Accountability Online Course, and a live webinar taught by John.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

3 Certain Failures All Leaders Will Encounter

As lovely as it would be to have a smooth, easy path to success as a leader, failure is an inevitable part of the process. The stories of some of the great leaders of all time are filled with more failures than success. Take Abraham Lincoln, for example; he was defeated or rejected from public office seven times before ever being elected as the President of the United States at age 51. A combination of his determination and the ability to learn from earlier failures was key to his eventual success as a leader. 

Henry Ford famously said, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Failure isn’t final, failure is feedback. 

Regardless of how long you have been leading, failure is going to happen. However, if you use failure as feedback, you create an opportunity to learn and make improvements for the future. Here are a few of the guaranteed failures all leaders will make at some point in their journey.

1. Waiting too long to change

Most leaders tend to get comfortable with their current systems and practices, especially if they have brought good results in the past.

Unfortunately, this can leave your team or company less equipped to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace. As Charles Koch said on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, “Too many leaders of companies are short-term oriented versus long-term oriented.” Koch is right; leaders should always be looking long-term especially in the area of innovation.

During a recent email exchange on innovation, Imran Tariq, CEO of Webmetrix Group, wrote to me, “Business leaders need to develop an agile mindset, especially in the digital age. Being slow to change can be costly, but failing to change at all will prove fatal.” 

Tariq has raised more than $400 million to acquire and scale seven-figure companies, so his quick note hit home for me on a personal level, as I’ve struggled with the building of my own leadership development company. Yes, older methods of creating revenue and implementing new learning solutions still work, but the signs of change are written on the wall. It’s no different in your industry or with your team — it just comes down to how open you are to change.

2. Handling a situation with a team member poorly

It doesn’t matter how long you have been leading a team; at some point, you will lay in bed at night wishing you had handled a situation with a team member differently. It could be the words you chose to use, the emotions you showed in a particular moment, or the lack of empathy.

No leader is perfect, and mistakes are just part of the job. It’s how you learn from those mistakes is what will separate you from others. Get in the habit of writing down the mistakes you make in particular situations and reviewing them every month. Look for opportunities to apply those lessons in future interactions with team members.

3. Bad hires

Even if you have an intensive process in place for vetting potential hires, you never know if someone will live up to expectations until they have actually joined your team. No matter how good of a judge, you may think you are, every business leader will make a bad hire at some point.

Even when hiring for low-level positions, a single bad hire can prove extremely costly — in my company LearnLoft’s research; we estimate the cost to be between $100k – $115k per leader.

The consequences aren’t strictly financial. They take a toll on you emotionally. I have made multiple bad hires in my day leading a company, and it’s hard not to take it personally. You not only are putting the person you have hired in a bad position, but it’s also difficult for other members of your team to pick up the slack of team members who leave.  

As painful as a bad hire can be, this can present a valuable learning experience that helps you hire better in the future. Just keep in mind this quote from Simon Sinek, which has become my guide: “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

Yes, failure can be frustrating. It can lead to significant financial losses, and possibly even the end of a current business endeavor. However, remember, failure isn’t final. Failure is feedback.  

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn professionals into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The One Sound Bad Leaders Don’t Mind Hearing (But Great Leaders Hate)

You may think the sound of silence means heads are down and work is getting done, but it’s time to reconsider. What you should be hearing is the phone ringing, collaborative conversations, or even laughter, just to name a few. Sure, at times, when you’re trying to concentrate, these sounds can be distracting– but they are part of a team’s journey towards success.

Bottom line: silence is a dangerous sound for leaders

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Basketball’s Hall of Fame coach knows silence is scary because the key to teamwork is communication. “Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

Instead of going over all the ways for you to communicate better as a leader, I want you to lean into the silence you are hearing because it’s telling you something. If your office or team is silent, it could be a symptom of something greater, like one of these consequences.

The team doesn’t work together well.

Everyone on a team doesn’t have to be best friends, but they do have to work well together. Henry Ford famously said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” It’s impossible to work together without sound. When teams work together, you’ll hear collaborative conversations or even the sounds of keys hitting the keyboard within a Slack channel. 

On a recent episode of the Disrupt Yourself Podcast with Whitney Johnson, author Marcus Buckingham said every team leader needs to be able to answer three basic questions:

  1. What are my people like (strengths and weaknesses)?
  2. What are they doing right now and how can I help them?
  3. How are they feeling right now and how I can help them?

The team doesn’t care about achieving your mission or goal.

Great leaders inspire and empower their team to achieve things. According to Gallup’s 2018 “State of the American Workplace,” a mere 33 percent of workers are engaged at work. It’s sad to think 1 in 3 professionals can’t wait until the clock strikes 5 PM instead of 8:30 AM. If a team isn’t engaged, they aren’t going to achieve things that matter.

One of the reasons for this is the mission or goal isn’t compelling or worth it for them. Instead of rolling over and just excepting this fate from your team, dig in and connect your team to a deeper purpose.

In our Building the Best Leadership Workshops, I coach leaders to identify a team mission statement that answers the questions, “We do X in order to Achieve Y for Z.” Make sure your team knows the mission of the work they do every day. Hopefully, it goes beyond just making money.

Your products or services are just okay.

One of the most important roles a leader has in today’s complex work environment is to promote innovation. Employees get excited to work on products or implements services that make a difference for clients. When teams get silent during these phases, it means the work is either boring or the products have become commodities. 

A great way to get people talking again is to expand your offerings so current team members have to expand their skill set to align with them. My company LearnLoft expanded our offerings to provide one-on-one coaching to better live out our mission to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. It didn’t take more than a few coaching interactions with our clients for team members to talk about how they could provide better coaching and specific ways to improve their skills. 

The team is bored.

The scrolling epidemic is here. Not only has opening Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn when people are bored become a habit, it only continues to increase. The average time a person spends connected with social networks has increased every single year since 2012. In 2018, the average worldwide average of all generations was 2 hours and 12 minutes.

This means when someone gets bored at work the likelihood they begin scrolling aimlessly is high. Since you are as guilty of this as your people, it’s important to educate and help each other rather than condemn it. Share these statistics with your team and create a weekly challenge to have them speak with someone on your team instead of opening Instagram at work.

The team is waiting for you to tell them what to do next.

If you ask your team what they think or what they should do next, and they’re quiet, it’s because they are either afraid of how you’ll react or they know their ideas don’t matter because you’re going to tell them what to do anyway. The worst leaders dictate what to work on each day. This creates a team of zombies waiting for the next order to come down the line.

What you want are proactive people who make decisions and collaborate with each other whether you are around or not. Start by allowing them to work on their ideas instead of shooting them down or telling them what they should do instead.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

Ultimate Leadership Academy Do you lead a team and want to elevate the way you lead? Apply to join the Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual leadership development program which includes the EO 360° Assessment and Report, 4 Live Instructor-Led Training Webinars and One-On-One Coaching. Learn more here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.