How to Build Your Self-Confidence as a Leader

4 Minutes Read

Self-confidence is the bedrock foundation upon which every CEO and business owner builds his or her repertoire of leadership skills. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself—and your potential as a leader—how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?

But what many prominent and successful business leaders may not happily admit is, they haven’t always had that bedrock of self-confidence to count on. Or they may not consistently possess self-confidence now, as they meet with their executive teams, plot out strategic growth, interact with others in the business community, and so on.

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How to Build Your Self-Confidence as a Leader

No one is immune to occasional attacks of self-doubt, nor does everyone have an unquestioned belief in their own abilities.

The good news is, there are concrete steps every person can take to boost their self-esteem and radiate the kind of leadership that inspires others to excel in their own positions. Here are tips for boosting your belief in yourself and your abilities to lead others:

Develop an expertise.

There’s bound to be a specialty area in your industry or general business where you can develop a specific expertise that sets you apart from others. “Don’t just learn about specific tools, learn why those tools are so important, and what methods people utilized in the past,” advises Glassdoor. This knowledge “will help you predict trends and become more innovative.”

Strive to be excellent, not “perfect.”

Generally speaking, when it comes to business, there’s really no such thing as “perfect.” Tasks can be achieved with an “outstanding” effort or with “remarkable” outcomes. If, however, you persist in the belief that a particular project or initiative isn’t complete until the result is “perfect,” you’ll forever chase after a state of being that doesn’t exist.

Instead, designate the highest standards for excellence around a particular effort and do your best to meet those demanding standards. The result, if not perfect, will certainly rank as excellent and boost both your own self-confidence and others’ belief in your leadership skills.

Have new and different experiences.

Undertaking a new and different experience—travel, skydiving, finally getting around to reading War and Peace—invariably broadens a person’s outlook. Knowing you have the “gumption” to try something new strengthens your ability to go beyond your comfort zone. That’s a valuable “life lesson” for everyone to learn, but particularly a CEO or business leader aiming to bolster his or her leadership skills.

Don’t second-guess yourself.

One symptom of a lapse in confidence is the voice in the head that constantly questions the rightness of any given decision. No leader can remain secure in his or her position if this voice assumes dominance. Try monitoring how often you question yourself; increased awareness of this tendency can help dilute its “power” and keep it from becoming a habit. Also, catalogue the things you do well and employ those as a counterweight to doubt. Above all, remember that with an open mind, you’re in a good position to alter your thought patterns and reduce—if not eliminate—that nagging voice of doubt in your head.

Acknowledge your fears.

We all have something that frightens us or in some way causes us to lose our bearings. Being a self-confident leader doesn’t necessarily mean you must overcome those fears—though being able to do so will inevitably build up one’s spirits—but you can at least acknowledge that certain “triggers” fill you with unease. A confident leader doesn’t pretend he’s altogether free of fear, only that he or she understands that it exists and looks for opportunities to deal with it from a position of strength.

Avoid negativity.

External events always have the potential to block our path and chip away at our self-esteem. In such cases, it’s tempting to lapse into a negative mind-set and lose motivation. Instead, adjust your perspective to unleash the opportunities these apparent setbacks create.

Another “anti-negativity” tip: Try cutting back on your exposure to the media’s endless barrage of bad news. Look for more positive influences, such as educational and motivational tapes or music that boosts your spirits.

The same principle applies to negative people, the ones who whine and complain and feel defeated by the world around them. These individuals are trapped in a loop of negativity, but there’s no reason you have to be trapped with them. Seek out new people with ambition and drive. Their upbeat attitude is infectious, in a healthy way.

Snap out of your routine.

At some point, nearly ever leader feels stuck in a rut. Get creative. Shake things up. Delegate the everyday stuff to your team. Find new ways to think about your business.

Improve your method of preparation.

Self-confidence often goes hand-in-hand with a sense of preparedness. Whether it’s an upcoming presentation before your board of directors or a challenging conversation with a direct report, don’t fall into the egotistical trap of “winging it.” Broadly speaking, it’s always better to be prepared for any challenging situation.

First of all, you’re likely to feel more confident when you know you’ve done all you can to get ready for an upcoming situation. That sense of confidence helps you keep a clear head and be more present in the moment—the clear sign of a self-confident leader.

Secondly, when you enter a situation where you’ll be called upon to lead a discussion or answer tough questions, being prepared means you’ll contribute more of value to others. This is another confidence-booster and also serves to enhance your status in the eyes of others—particularly if you shed new light on the topic or in some other way alter conventional thinking. This is precisely the kind of talent people look for in a leader.

Every leader will experience a dip in confidence from time to time. By adopting new thought patterns and getting out of a rut, it’s possible to build even stronger self-esteem and become an inspiration and role model for others who themselves struggle to be as self-assured as they can be.

Brad Mishlove