If you’re like most leaders, you’ve felt anxious and unconfident at some point in your career. Perhaps your team fell short of a goal, or you were concerned that you would fall short of expectations in your new position. Many of the thoughts that went through your mind will be familiar to many: «Am I the right person for this job?»; «Do I have what it takes?»; «What if I can’t deliver?»
These are natural feelings. However, if unaddressed, frequent feelings of inadequacy will impair your ability to reach your full potential. «Ducking the facts about performance for fear of being judged, criticised, humiliated, and punished characterises losing streaks, not winning streaks,» argues leadership expert Rosabeth Moss-Kanter in her famous book, «Confidence.» So, how can you ensure that you are the confident leader your team requires when plans do not go as planned, results are not achieved, or uncertainty makes you anxious?
Leaders are human, and no one can know everything. Remember that you don’t have to know everything to be a confident leader. You must, however, be willing to learn.
Begin by learning to recognise when you are confident and when you aren’t. When you are feeling confident, you may contribute your experience, question conventional wisdom at a strategy discussion, and freely ask input from team members. When you are less confident, you may hesitate to speak up in meetings, agree with the majority opinion despite misgivings, and hide in your office to avoid tough confrontations.
In both circumstances, ask yourself, «Why is that so?» Don’t just settle for the first answer! Instead, ask three or four more times to determine the source of your confidence or anxiety. If you are honest with yourself, you will unavoidably draw on your strengths and limitations.
Your responsibility as a leader is to enable each team member to use their talents and experiences to achieve a common objective. As with any high-performing team, there will be team members whose skill sets exceed yours — this does not indicate inadequacy on your part, but rather reflects on your ability to assemble the best team possible. If you’re having trouble defining your leadership qualities, consider what others come to you for help with. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers for suggestions on how you can improve. People around us often notice our strengths before we do.
Expect to Succeed. When You Don’t
Your career and leadership experiences will always be distinguished by ups and downs. What matters is how you tackle each scenario. Did you miss a target? Don’t bemoan it, but find out why with your coworkers. Even better, solicit continuing input. Again, if you ask «why?» five times, you will get at least one answer that will help you avoid derailing the next time. Be a role model by communicating openly with your teammates and peers.
Managers are no longer expected to know everything. Anyone who tries to act like they do will only embarrass themselves. You gain the respect of others by improving your knowledge whenever the chance arises and by skillfully integrating the abilities of team members to achieve common goals. Today’s effective leaders are more akin to facilitators. They are aware of current strengths and shortcomings; they aim to strengthen the former and fix the latter – not by pointing fingers, but by devising an improvement plan.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Many leaders suffer from impostor syndrome, which entails feeling like a fake despite outward achievement. Leaders might easily feel powerless and inadequate in the face of fast change. However, feeling overwhelmed may only indicate a lack of focus. It requires tenacity to keep on track when confronted with opposing viewpoints and rapidly shifting trends.
«I think we should come out as the flawed human beings that we all actually are,» author Rita Clifton says in «Love Your Imposter.» Clifton believes that performing professionally does not require you to forsake the empathic, emotional, and quirky qualities of your personality that make you distinctive.
Instead of depending simply on your instincts, use the collective expertise of your team to propel you ahead. Take use of team members’ abilities and expertise that you may not have. Before making a choice, gather as many viewpoints as possible. Create the psychological safety that your team requires to be vulnerable and openly share their opinions. Bring out the best in those you lead so that they can make you the best leader possible.
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