Building confidence matters for thoughtful leaders. You know, those leaders who think about the impact their leadership has on others, and act with intention. When you lack confidence in your ability to lead your team or manage a situation, people will start to notice.
And that’s the problem. When you’re not confident, it’s not just that you feel anxious and uneasy. It’s because this lack of confidence shows itself in different ways which other people pick up on, making them feel uneasy too.
How a Lack of Confidence Shows In Your Leadership
There are several signs of a leader who is lacking confidence. Often, it’s in the body language and behaviour. It could be the way you stand with your shoulders slumped, or face away from someone who you’re in conflict with.
Perhaps you speak too softly, causing people to lean forward to hear you or simply tell you to speak up. Maybe you hesitate when answering a question, instead of providing a smooth well-spoken response.
A leader lacking in confidence may also avoid situations and withdraw. This might mean taking a back seat and fading into the background instead of standing out the front.
This includes avoiding that difficult conversation, or giving into someone because you can’t summon the confidence to fight back. A lack of confidence can also lead to insecurity, causing you to become defensive or overcompensate for your feelings of inadequacy.
Empathy: The Strength and the Vulnerability of the Thoughtful Leader
Empathy has become one of the most sought-after qualities in a leader. This trait allows leaders to understand other people’s point of view and put themselves in “the shoes” of others. In other words, they are able to better understand how other people are feeling and take the time to do so.
Without this important quality, leaders run the risk of trampling over people if they don’t consider their needs.
When trying to make change in the workplace, leaders also risk misunderstanding the situation and failing to introduce change in a way that will be successful and embraced by their teams.
Leaders who act without empathy often take a “me first” approach. They consider what satisfies or is best for themselves, and then they think about what others may want. Unfortunately, this can have the effect of alienating team members and causing resentment over the long term.
In leadership, I consider empathy to be a great strength to be able to navigate the workplace. Using empathy allows you to influence and manage people more easily, because you have considered their opinions and feelings.
Why Empathy Introduces a Greater Need For Building Confidence
I believe there is a strong link between empathy and the need for confidence. Leaders with a high degree of empathy have a strong awareness and interest of the needs of those around them.
As such, many workplace situations become more challenging because of an increased sensitivity to the dynamics of the people and teams within them.
Leaders with strong empathy will be consistently challenged by wanting to do the right thing for their people, because they are in tune with how others feel.
On the other hand, leaders without empathy may ignore this aspect and charge ahead without regard for the consequences, or simply treat the needs of others as an afterthought. These leaders are content to reside in the “me first” zone, which means their sights are set on satisfying their immediate needs.
Building confidence matters for thoughtful and empathic leaders. Without confidence, these leaders may second-guess and question themselves in the face of issues which affect their teams.
The heightened awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others can create discomfort for these leaders when they need to make decisions that may upset some team members. As a consequence, these leaders need to be confident that they are both doing the right thing, and that they will be able to achieve what they set out to do.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Empathy?
I believe that there are consequences for leaders who have too much empathy. These leaders may align with their team members too greatly, increasing their own stress levels when they need to make a hard call.
In addition, leaders may become paralysed when faced with a tough decision, or make the wrong decision to cater for the needs of their team instead of making the right call for the benefit of the business they are a part of.
For me, the ideal amount of empathy lies in the middle of the spectrum.
Too much and you tend to feel constrained by the needs and wants of your team, with the fear that you may impact somebody. Too little and you may ignore concerns of your people and damage relationships along with your own credibility.
Having just the right amount of empathy means you can take people’s feelings and needs into account without letting them completely take over your decision making process, or making you feel terribly stressed every time you need to make a change that people may not like.
No matter where you are on the spectrum, the best thing you can do is to be aware of where you lie, so you can take that into account when you’re making an important decision that affects your team. Test your approach with others and get their opinion on the best way forward.
Build Confidence to Improve Your Leadership
Building confidence is critical to make sure that you make an impact on your workplace. If you’re reading this, you probably already have the view that focusing on the needs of your people will lead to better results.
If you are a leader who struggles with confidence, there are some simple steps you can take.
- Keep track of your accomplishments. You can look back and see that “I’ve succeeded before, I can do it again!”
- Get out of your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is what keeps you safe, but not growing as much as you can. The more you can succeed when you feel slightly uncomfortable, the bigger your comfort zone will get.
- Find a sounding board. Find someone to bounce ideas off and test your thoughts with, so you don’t need to go it alone (if you want my help with this, take a look at my leadership coaching services here).
- Change your mindset. Let go of the beliefs that tell you that as a leader, you should know everything. Ask good questions to find out the answers, or do your own research to become more comfortable.
- Understand your weaknesses. Our weaknesses make us feel, well … weak. Strengthen your weaknesses or get the right people around them to minimise their impact.
Feeling Inadequate and Out of Your Depth? Try the Leadership Confidence Online Course.
For some leaders, it’s easy to ignore the needs of people around them and focus on their own goals first. For others, they want to do the right thing by their team and their organisation.
The second road is harder, and I believe it leads to better long term results. This includes greater motivation in our teams, with more credibility, a better reputation and a greater respect for our leadership.
Thoughtful leaders need confidence to be effective. When you’re in tune with the people around you, you need to feel confident to have the hard conversations and make the difficult decisions.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you think empathic leaders need more confidence, or not? What do you do to build your confidence? Leave a comment and let us know below!