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4 Practical Insights To Strengthen Your Confidence as a Leader

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What comes first confidence or competence? What sustains leadership confidence? What breaks it down?

Any confident leader who is honest about it, will tell you that he or she has moments or seasons where their confidence has taken a hit. The question is what can we do about it?

It’s similar to a professional baseball player. They understand the game, they know how to hit, but they’re in a batting slump. It’s when that batting slump gets in their head that more complex issues begin.

Confidence in what you can do is different than confidence in who you are. You can’t separate the two, but confidence in who you are must always take first place.

If confidence is gained primarily through doing things right and achieving success, what happens to your confidence when you don’t do things just right?

If you are leading and making progress toward the goal (vision), you are out in front. When you’re out in front you’re in new territory and engaging new problems. Therefore, you’ll make mistakes as you figure out how to do things at new levels (league of play) that you’ve never done before.

All of that can challenge your confidence.

There is a great measure of confidence that comes from experience and competence in your leadership skills, but the important distinction is whether your sustained confidence comes from your ability or your identity.

It’s common among leaders to lean into ability first, and we strive to become better. The challenge is that if we base our confidence first on what we can do, (ability), rather than who we are, (identity), the first time you strike out, mess up or fail, your confidence crashes.

Self-doubt can then steal your confidence, and you begin to second-guess yourself.

Think about a child learning to walk or ride a bike, they must first believe they can, before they actually do. They believe from something within them that they can do it, and therefore keep trying until they can. And if they fall, they get back up and try again.

The child who exclaims to their parents “I can’t!” is like the pro baseball player who allowed the batting slump to get in his head.

The goal is to focus on identity first as you develop your ability through practice and gain experience. Each time you step up to the plate, take a swing and hit the ball, the greater your confidence becomes. Keep practicing.