12 Ways to Develop Leadership Confidence

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

I was in a
talent review meeting
recently and we were discussing the strengths and
development needs of a promising young leader. When I asked what the leader’s
biggest development need was, the answer was “confidence”.

When faced with
a development need, I can usually adlib a
pretty good development plan
, but I drew on a blank on this one. Total
brain cramp. So I asked the rest of the group “So, how do you develop
confidence?” The only answer they could come up with was “experience”. More
specifically, to give the person time to build up a track record of wins.

But that can’t
be the only way to develop leadership confidence, right? Sit back and wait?
That wouldn’t explain why some young, early career leaders are oozing with
confidence, and other more experienced, successful leaders still project a lack
of confidence.

After doing a
little research, I came up with the following 12 ways to develop leadership
confidence. I’m sure there are way more, but these resonated with me and my own
leadership development experience.

Next time, I’ll
be able to rattle a few of them off, and I hope anyone wanting to develop
leadership self-confidence can use the list to create their own development

1. Learn about leadership. Take a course,
read a few books, subscribe
to this publication
, and study the great leaders. Learn what leaders do and
don’t do. Learn the frameworks, the tools, and the skills required to lead. The
more you know about subject, including leadership, the more confident you’ll

2. Network with other leaders. While it’s good to learn about
leadership from courses and reading, putting those good ideas to practice is hard and mistakes will be made. Having a
network, or support group of peers is a healthy way to share common, real world
challenges. It will give you a feeling of “I’m not the only one who feels this

3. Develop realistic self-awareness. Knowing your leadership strengths will
give you confidence, and facing up to your development needs will help you
determine what you need to focus on to get better.

Feedback will
give a leader realistic self-awareness. Leaders that
ask for feedback are seen as more confident than those that don’t.

4. Help others be more successful. Leadership confidence isn’t just about
building your own track record of wins. The essence of leadership is helping
others around you become more successful. Help other gain self-awareness, coach
them, and help put them in the best position to be successful.

5. Celebrate wins. When your team or colleagues hit a
milestone or does something awesome, let them and everyone else know! This
isn’t about tooting your own horn – it’s about getting into the habit of
looking for and recognizing the wins of others.

6. Look
attention to your physical appearance. Losing weight, getting in shape, a new
pair of glasses, new hairstyle, a new suit, or a new pair of shoes can make you
feel and look more confident. Watch
your posture, make eye contact, smile, and use a firm grip when shaking hands.

7. Learn and practice positive
and happiness
can be learned.

8. Develop your emotional intelligence
. Self-confidence is the mark of an
emotionally intelligent leader.

EQ isn’t something you are born with, it can be learned and developed.

9. Project
While you
may be terrified inside, learn to “fake it till you make it” by appearing that
you are confident. Terrified of public speaking? Take a presentation skills

10. Ask others for help. Confident leaders know what they know
and what they don’t know, and are not afraid to ask for help. They draw on the
talents of others without feeling threatened.

11. Stop asking “mother may I” and make
a decision.
leaders would rather ask for forgiveness than permission and are comfortable
making decisions without having 100% certainty.

12. Develop a sense of humor. Well timed humor will break the tension
in a stressful situation and help put the situation in perspective.

Working on all
twelve of these at the same time would be overwhelming and impossible, so try
picking 1-2 at a time. Look for incremental improvement and celebrate your
success, and before you know it, you’ll feel and act like a more confident