“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” – Eleanor Roosevelt 

There is confidence and there is arrogance.   

On the surface, they look similar. They are far from the same.  Arrogance can look like confidence, but it is never leaderlike. 

A leader with confidence understands their strengths and acknowledges their weaknesses. They surround themselves with people whose strengths make up for their weaknesses or faults. 

An arrogant manager tends to hide their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with people with similar or worse faults. They mask their lack of self-confidence with cockiness. 

Enough about arrogance, let’s talk about confidence. 

What does confidence look like? A leader with self-confidence has a presence. They hold their head high. They are naturally warm and engaging. They speak with conviction and answer questions concisely and confidently. At the same time, they will readily admit when THEY don’t know something. Their confidence is rooted in competence. 

A confident leader will do what they believe is right, even if they know they will be criticized. This confidence enables them to take calculated risks in order to achieve better results. It allows them to admit when they are wrong or off course. They learn from their mistakes and freely share the lessons learned. Their confidence breeds confidence in everyone surrounding them. They are trusted as they will give credit where credit is due.  At the same time, they accept compliments and will express pride in accomplishments. They have a sense of self-esteem. There is no value in their waiting for others to acknowledge their success. 

People without confidence have a fear of accepting new challenges. They fear failure and avoid taking risks. They will work hard to cover up their mistakes and hope no one notices or worse yet – they will blame others. The behavior behind their fears holds them back in their career and their lives. 

Most important, confidence breeds confidence in your actions, directions, and decisions by your customers, peers, and team members. Confidence is key to your success as a leader.  

What is getting in your way of realizing confidence in yourself?  

Can one build self-confidence? Yes! It is not easy, but it is achievable.

Let me share my own story.   

There was a time in my life where I lived my life supported by someone I dearly loved and then he passed away suddenly in 1999. A piece of me died with him. To be candid, I went into a downward tail spin. I could not see my way forward without his love and support. I didn’t know how I could go on. As I searched for meaning, I would often spend my days in the Boston Museum of Art. While on one of my visits, I discovered this little square magnet.  

It touched my heart like fireworks. At that point in my life just getting up scared me. I realized at that moment that I was in charge of my destiny and it was about time I took charge.  From that day forward, this magnet quote became my life mantra and it still is today. 

Let me share the WHY behind these words.  

These words are often attributed to the Eleanor Roosevelt. I ‘ve never found a publication where she directly said this exact phrase. Nevertheless, a woman I had long admired grew into my hero as I searched for the meaning behind the words on this magnet.

My search led me to a discover a small book of life lessons by Eleanor Roosevelt published in 1960: “You Learn by Living” with a chapter titled “Fear—the Great Enemy” in which she discusses the problems she experienced due to her excessive fears. She goes on to say in the book:  

Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face. It is the great crippler. Looking back, it strikes me that my childhood and my early youth were one long battle against fear. 

As she grew and matured, she made a conscious effort to reduce her fears and build her confidence by tackling the tasks that caused her apprehension head on. She explains her reasoning:  

“The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. 

 How does lack of confidence show up in an IT Leader? 

To achieve personal growth, it is sometimes necessary to move outside of your comfort zone. Lack of confidence creates fears and limiting beliefs. Unjustified fears can constrain exploration, openness to innovative ideas, and positive development for both you and your teams.  Once a limiting belief is triggered and activated, your outlook changes. You will start to see everything through a filter of fear. You will look for validation daily that your decisions are good enough. Sometimes this will prevent you from making a decision at all or rejection due to difference of opinion. For example, when someone offers an opinion that differs from yours’ in a meeting, instead of acknowledging the comment or being open to discussing it, you remain silent, or immediately get defensive and start beating yourself up. ‘Why didn’t I think of that? I’m not good enough.’  I’ve seen this happen. It is a vicious self-fulfilling downward spiral.   

The good news is that we can rewire our brain with focus and intention. Although our fears and limiting beliefs won’t completely disappear, over time, they lose their power over our daily thoughts and actions. Techniques of identifying and addressing the fears behind confidence issues help to support more positive thinking and self-talk. 

I am here for you if you need a safe place to discuss your barriers to confidence or if you need help pulling yourself out of the spiral.     

Until next time, have an effective week! To further this week’s conversation, schedule time with me and let’s talk! 

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