Confidence is not one of the key personality characteristics required for leadership.  And it is worse than irrelevant, too much confidence can end up in choices and actions that are dangerous to others.

Confidence does affect who is chosen for a leadership role, but that of course is because we believe the myth that leaders need to be confident. It is also a lazy way to select leaders. We need to assess personality, intelligence, technical abilities, emotional intelligence, characteristics which are required for good leadership.

The best type of self-confidence is actually self-awareness, the ability to be aware of both your talents and your limitations.  It is so noteworthy in senior leaders because it is so rarely seen.

Self-confidence without awareness of limitations means that you take insufficient notice of flaws and inabilities.  Not knowing them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Rather than being reassured by certainty and confidence when we’re hiring, we should be concerned or at least curious about it, and probe further.

Promoting the idea that confidence is something leaders needs tells people who don’t express such confidence that the problem is inside them, rather than with the system. This is a particular problem for women and under-represented groups who continue to face significant challenges in climbing the leadership ladder.  They just need to be confident, then all will miraculously change?

We’ve tried that, and not only doesn’t it work, it can easily backfire.

However, good news, finally. When we focus on the ‘confidence climate’, things do change. 

What do we need to change in our system to allow people to freely experience both confidence and doubt?

  1. Build psychological safety so that people are free to speak about doubts, concerns, options and alternatives.
  1. Ask what gets in the way of people feeling and expressing themselves with confidence to identify what you can change.
  1. Moderate over-confidence – encourage those who express a lot of confidence to entertain reasonable doubt, consider multiple options, and listen to others who may be less certain and yet more right.
Safe confidence climate diagram, build safety, identify barriers, moderate over-confidence

Book a call with me today to find out more about how my executive coaching can help you beat burnout and find greater freedom, feel energised, connected and performing at your very best.

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