Self-assurance is what makes a leader.
You can teach someone who wants to become a leader to be an effective problem solver, to be more focused, to communicate better, to coach their team in a more efficient way, to become a mentor and hold team members accountable – among many more competencies that a leader is expected to possess.
But there is one thing you cannot teach anyone:
To be self-confident.
We discussed this in many occasions here:
‘Leader’ is not a given title like ‘Manager’ is.
You need to be unofficially ‘voted’, recognized, acknowledged by your team to be a ‘leader’.
‘Leader’ is not a title; it’s an award.
Anyone technically qualified for the position, while lacking confidence, will not be able to lead others.
They will be a good manager – which is not already half bad! -, but not a leader.
Columnist and strategic development specialist Francisco Dao explains that “self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best.”
Many want-to-be leaders hide their lack of confidence behind an overplayed aggressiveness.
They think – and many of their peers believe – that an aggressive manager is a great leader with huge self-confidence; in fact, it is the exact opposite:
Aggressiveness is a sure sign of a strong lack of confidence, and often demonstrates that the so-called leader dreads their team members.
On the other hand, a leader confident enough – being over-confident also has its drawbacks – doesn’t need to act as a bully to get things done.
Actually, people like to work with / for a confident leader:
Humans have the natural tendency to trust more those who appear self-assured; we are naturally associating self-confidence with professionalism.
Of course, major scams in history prove that you cannot / shouldn’t always trust someone who seems over-confident – look at Charles Ponzi, Victor Lusting, or of course more recently Bernard Madoff among so many more scam-artists throughout the centuries!
Nevertheless, when a person shows confidence, we all have the tendency to trust them; we like to work with people we trust.
We, then, have no problem to vouch them as our ‘leader’.
We started this article by listing a long list of skills many think mandatory to become / be a leader.
In fact, if they can prove useful, self-confidence is more important than expertise or even experience – all a leader needs is a team with the knowledge, aptitudes and experience necessary to achieve their common goals.
As it name implies, a leader leads – they shouldn’t do, except in specific occasions; a good leader should never be scared to get their hands dirty with field work, but it shouldn’t be the norm:
A positively self-confident leader will have no issue to make tough decisions, lead meeting with authority but yet in a stress-free and whenever possible enjoyable way, have their teammates communicate with them openly, providing feedback and innovative suggestions for the benefit of all.
In contrast, a so-called leader who is lacking self-confidence will second-guess constantly their own decisions, and will be continually on the defensive, hence baring open and honest communication between them and their teammates.
'Teammates' is the perfect word:
A self-confident leader will have followers. A doubting manager will have teammates at best; most of the time they will be no more than ‘employees’.
Positively self-confident leaders can easily be recognized by the way they typically behave:
Because of their ‘can do’ attitude, they do not like much those who explain ‘why they cannot do’.
Most of their team members enjoy working with an optimistic leader able to offer a positive vision.
They recognize more than the professional they work with; they acknowledge the man or woman each of their team member is, and treat them with the respect and recognition they deserve.
A self-confident leader is a self-motivator and don’t expect to find what motivates them in any organization:
They set their own goals and are (self) motivated enough to make them happen.
They believe what they do is important and that they can make a real positive difference to their company, and often also to their direct environment when not the world!
They have the rare ability to put things into perspective and see the humor even in the most challenging situations.
Most of their team enjoy working in this stress-free environment.
They are realistically weighting any situation and take without hesitating calculated risks.
Self-confident leaders are not on the platform looking at passing trains – the are on-board, operating the proverbial train!
They are happy with the success of others and truly believe that everyone should know when someone does good.
Most team members love to work in a place where they are fairly recognized.
When a feedback can be put into action, they do not hesitate to do so and ensure that the teammate who came with that great idea is recognized by all.
Because they are open to all, their teammates do not hesitate to come to them to speak openly, hence making the team stronger and closer to achieve when not exceed their goals.
They always welcome feedback from others and strongly advocate them to share their opinions – leaders are very much aware that they can and need to learn from them – regardless of their hierarchal positions.
At the end of the day, they form their opinions themselves, considering all they saw, heard and learned and define their course of action accordingly.
Teammates enjoy working with such leaders because they are easy to understand and follow:
They are consistent (there is nothing people hate more than inconsistent managers), while their words and actions are aligned and reliable.
To summarize, it is self-confidence that separates the good manager from the leader.
Self-assurance is not a given to all, and it can hardly be learned.
Keep in mind that being a good manager is already very positive, as there are unfortunately not so many of them out there!