Recent studies conducted among top corporations in the US and globally have suggested that a leadership void is on the rise. Some point to a greater need for training. Others suggest that the pool of available talent requires a different approach to grooming. From my own experience as an executive coach, it’s largely a matter of leadership confidence.
Leadership is more art than science. Clearly, understanding leadership methods, best practices and particular skills provides important advantages when implementing your leadership know-how in the workplace. But the element that transforms a ‘learned leader’ into a ‘effective leader’ requires the ability to confidently put what you know into practice.
If you lack the confidence to lead others effectively, don’t let this linger. In the short run, your inability to act or engage your team will result in stalled performance and disruption to the business. In the long run, it will lead to your demotion or departure all together.
A large part of being confident is building familiarity for what you are doing. This takes practice; taking notes on what works and learning from what doesn’t.
Here are the most common areas that contribute to a lack of leadership confidence. In addition to defining the damage they cause, I’ve provided a solution that most of the time will improve your ability to engage your time and become more confident.
Poor Communications Affects Leadership Confidence:
This is a general inability to hold a meaningful conversation with other individuals or a group. It can result in ineffective directives and a lack of understanding about situations good or bad. Most leaders who struggle with communications do so because of fear of having to handle tough questions or be seen as not having all the answers. Taken to an extreme, poor communicators can resort to giving statements or issuing edicts and then retreating to the office where it’s safe. When communications are unclear from the top, all sorts of problems develop below.
Leaders are responsible for bringing others together, for gathering information and for gaining understanding about the things their teams are facing. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t even need to monopolize the conversation. By practicing the art of asking good questions and listening intently, you will be viewed with much greater appreciation for your leadership than making your presence known like Donald Trump! One technique I introduce to clients is called 'The Socratic Method'. It’s a fascinating way to approach conversations that focus on what the other person has to say.
Inconsistent Decision Making Affects Leadership Confidence:
Leaders who make good, timely decisions are viewed at valuable. Leaders that delay or don’t make decisions at all are looked at as obstacles. The three main types of decision makers are: hip shooters- decide first, investigate later; chronic deliberators, and those who defer decisions to others. Good decisions come about because you understand enough about what’s happening, you recognize what the best outcome should be and you seek enough council to validate your thoughts. If you are not comfortable with a decision making methodology that works for you, you will continue to make poor, untimely decisions. When the allocation of resources or a decision about how to handle critical issues is in question, your leadership credibility will suffer. There’s nothing I have seen in my entire career that undercuts leadership authority more than poor decision making skills.
Take inventory of the recent decisions you have been faced with. Did you understand all the factors involved? Did you gather enough information about the situation and your available options? Did you confide in anyone you trust to validate your thoughts? Did you make your decision in haste or while in a heighten state of emotion?
The more you understand the effects of your own process and begin to adopt a regimen that leads you to a more confident decision making outcome, the better you will get at making good, timely decisions. Remember, what’s urgent is not always important. And sometimes, deciding not to take action is the best decision.
Disorganized Talent Developing Affects Leadership Confidence:
Leaders who place a priority on developing talent throughout their organizations tend to reach their goals faster and with less frustration or stress. There’s nothing greater than having built a solid team that works well together, consistently over performs and provides a pool for filling higher position opportunities. When talent development is ignored or poorly orchestrated more focus is required to address personnel or performance issues. Achieving major initiatives becomes questionable. Turnover escalates. More outside hiring is required to fill key positions.
Be clear about the talent needs of your organization. Does every position have a position description and a performance plan? Get to know all of your reports: their strengths and weaknesses, their competencies, their aspirations and who they are as individuals. Make continuous development a priority and help each individual develop and take responsibility for their own plan. Keep a chart that shows who your talent is and where they are. Be a full time talent scout and seek out people who appear to be great additions whether you have an opening or not. Pipe line potential is important. Lastly, insure your management team understands the importance of developing talent so they can support your overall direction.
Poor Relationship Building Skills Affects Leadership Confidence:
Great leaders are recognized for their ability to influence and garner high levels of support from those around them. Great leaders know that surrounding themselves with the best and the brightest is what produces great organizations. This requires an ability to develop quality relationships built on respect, openness, and a genuine interest in the well being of your team. If you are not confident in the relationships you have, it will be difficult to have candid discussions about resolving issues. Your ability to motivate people to go beyond their own comfort zone will be difficult. And trying to determine who’s loyal to your cause will be questionable.
Make sure your integrity is intact. People who don’t trust you will not follow you or give 110% for things that important to you. Identify and address any issues that are standing between you and a co-worker or subordinate. If done proactively and with honest intent, you will be demonstrating your desire to work with people you may not always see eye-to-eye with. Include the right people when handling important decisions, especially during the fact finding stage. Don’t try and make decisions in a vacuum. Seek out and accept feedback. Leaders who are open to opposing views or critiques are seen as much more confident in their roles and responsibilities. Finally, control your desire to speak ill of people or spread rumors, even in the slightest of ways. Confiding in subordinates about the shortcomings of others never ends well. Keeping your emotions in check is a great way to guard against disparaging others in the heat of the moment.
Developing Greater Leadership Confidence is a Continuous Process:
A little reach on the skills and characterizes needed to develop into a great leader will expose you to many more areas than I have touched on in this article. But knowing how to be a great leader and actually demonstrating leadership confidence in the workplace are too different things. If you lack the confidence to implement the tenants of great leadership, focus on the areas I have described above. These areas are a great start to building confidence and developing in the areas that truly count. It’s not about what you know and can do on your own. It’s about how well you can guide and move the rest of the organization in the direction you set.