The Unspoken Role of Confidence in Leadership

post from Karen J. Hewitt:

Leadership is one of
the most regularly used words in the world of business, and arguably one of the
most important.  But what does it really
mean, and is it delivering what it promises in organisations?

Leadership is “the
action of leading a group of people or an organisation”, and there are two
important things to note:

Firstly, leadership
does not necessarily require an official title.
Whilst leading the
organisation does often come with a title – like CEO or Managing Director – leading
a group of people does not.   The latter,
because of its lack of position power, implies the ability to influence without
it.  Whilst some people consider both
forms to be leadership; others differentiate between the two, saying that a
manager has the title, whereas a leader has the people, i.e., the first form is
not true leadership, but management.

An even better
distinction comes in the differences between transactional and transformational
leadership – a term brought to prominence by James McGregor Burns in the
political sphere and then adopted in business. 

leadership is a style that can be used to inspire others to follow, and to
create change in organisations, through a strong belief in a cause, inspiring
people with a big vision, connecting with them as individuals and challenging
their thinking.

Secondly, to lead in
the sense described above requires influence, but this requires confidence.   Leaders need confidence in themselves, and
to be able to inspire it in others, and the two are intrinsically linked. 

We follow people when
we trust – that what the would-be leader says is in line with our own beliefs, and
that what they say will be acted on, and become our reality.
If the above is true,
why then do we never discuss confidence in business? 

In high performance
sport, confidence is a topic on everyone’s agenda, because the sports world
knows what business has been slow to pick up on – that confidence is the secret
to performance.

You can be the most
talented person in the race, but only confidence will get you to the starting
line.  Without it, you won’t leave the
locker room, and with it you’ll step out of your comfort zone – the only place
where potential can be realised.

All of this is relevant
to your C-Suite, because these are the people you absolutely need to lead the
organisation, and even with their official titles, they still need to be able
to inspire a whole organisation. 

leadership will lead their people to perform to expectations, but only
transformational leadership, with that additional ingredient of inspiration,
will get performance beyond it.

And in today’s
turbulent and tough business environment, do we expect any less than this?

It’s also relevant to
all of your employees. 

Whilst having your
C-Suite lead is imperative, you also need your employees to lead – to champion
your change agenda, and speak out for and uphold your company’s standards. 

To do so requires
confidence in all its facets. 

Your employees need a
strong sense of self and their place in the world, an ability to project
confidence to others – through their body language, voice and words – and to be
resilient in the face of unexpected challenges.

In companies, we
sometimes offer our people training in presentation skills, which help them to
project confidence to others.  What
rarely gets attention, however, is our employees’ sense of self and their place
in the world. 

We trust they will
either figure this out for themselves, or cover up for a lack of it by
projecting a veneer of confidence in the workplace.  Indeed, many of us have become adept at this,
but without the layers of confidence beneath it, something is missing, and
others can see it.

leadership is the most powerful form of leadership, because as its name
suggests, it has the ability to create wholesale transformation in your

To deliver it, we need
our leaders to have the natural charisma that comes from internal and deep
confidence, when the leader is clear and congruent on who they are and what
they believe in.

This type of confidence
is long-term and highly effective, especially when combined with the ability to
project external confidence to others.  

Investing in it will
allow your employees to lead within your company, even when the winds of change
are threatening to batter down its doors.

Some say that
leadership is only really tested when the going gets tough, and without confidence
in all its forms, how do we know our confident leaders will stand strong and
tall, and handle whatever turbulent times throw at them?

The people in your
organisation may already be of high calibre, but confidence is a part of being
human, and peaks and troughs affect all of us, even the high performers.

Confidence is a subject
that is more complex than most of us imagine, but with a little more knowledge,
we can start understanding the role it plays in leadership.

And with a daily
investment in building and maintaining it, we can start reaping the rewards.

Let’s also remember
that corporate environments sap confidence from our people on a daily basis –
another reason to make it a focus.   And
to make sure this newfound confidence is able to take root, we need an equal
focus on a culture that enables it to thrive.

With confidence such a
critical part of leadership, and leadership key to unlocking the potential of
your people and the organisation, isn’t it time to make the unspoken spoken?

Karen J. Hewitt is a multilingual “”Engagement and Culture Change specialist
with proven credentials in creating cross-border leadership movements within
organisations.  She is the author of “Employee
Confidence – the new rules of Engagement
”, finalist in the
Leadership category of the Business Book Awards 2019.