Even if you’re not the official leader of your organisation, being able to lead is still a key competency you will need in order to progress in your career. Regardless of how high up we are in the organisational hierarchy, there will always be situations where we need to demonstrate our leadership qualities. However, if you’ve always believed that leadership isn’t a skill that comes naturally to you and you suddenly find yourself needing to be able to lead in your job it can seem like an overwhelming, impossible situation.
The good news is we can all improve our ability to lead just by being confident. Having a confident attitude convinces us we can be a leader and also makes a positive impression on those we’re leading. Of course, it’s one thing to say “be more confident” but gaining confidence is not as easy as that. Building the confidence to lead is a process that takes time and thought. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Stop Projecting
When we’re lacking self-confidence and don’t really know what it’s like to lead others, we can fall into the trap of not wanting to appear too confident to those we’re leading in case we come off as arrogant. This is simply you projecting a negative opinion onto others who’ve probably given you no reason to believe they would think that. No one will have a problem with a leader who is assertive – so don’t be afraid of being confident in who you are and what you’re doing.
2. Learn from Leaders
By definition, your superiors are in a good position to give you advice and support around leadership. As your superiors, they have experience of leading you and your peers and can therefore give you tips on leading confidently based on their own experiences and knowledge.
3. Get Peer Support
Even if your peers are in the same position as you in terms of not having much formal leadership experience, they can still be a source of support for you. They can help build your confidence by telling you what it is about your skills, qualities and experience that make you good at leading. Ask them for this feedback and even for some examples of when they’ve seen your potential to lead shine through.
4. Ask About Training Opportunities
Knowing that you’ve been thoroughly trained to do your job can give you the confidence to do it. If you feel you’d benefit from a little extra leadership training or even just training in the areas you’ll be leading in, ask your employer if there are any in-house learning opportunities that might help you to be a better leader within their organisation.
5. Celebrate Your Skills
Give yourself a confidence boost by making a list of what you’re good at. It can be hard for us as women to own our strengths. We either don’t believe we have any strengths worth mentioning or we feel as if it would be boastful to acknowledge them. However, in order to have confidence as a leader we have to believe we have something to be confident about. If we’re not convinced we have the skills to lead, the people we’re leading won’t be either.
6. Practise Leading
Even in situations that don’t formally require you to take the lead, it’s good to practise being assertive and driving activity. For example if you’re in a meeting you’re not chairing, it doesn’t mean you have to be a passive observer. Make active contributions to the meeting and be prepared to explain and defend your suggestions. Once you’ve stood up to people challenging your opinions and decisions a few times, you’ll be more confident in doing so as a leader.
7. Take Classes
Enrolling in courses that deal with specific leadership skills can be as easy as checking out what your local further education college has to offer and signing up for evening or weekend classes. Something like a public speaking course can really boost your confidence in that area, both by teaching you new skills and giving you the opportunity to use those skills in class.
8. Look After Yourself
Although carrying out leadership responsibilities is tiring and time-consuming, don’t use that as an excuse to slack off on your self-care. Eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep make you feel better in yourself, which in turn gives you confidence.
9. Do Things You’re Good At
When we do things we know we’re good at and do them well, that automatically lifts our confidence as we’re reminded of how capable and talented we really are. Instead of worrying about whether or not you’re going to be any good at leading, spend time doing the things you already know you’re good at and this will give you the confidence to get into other skills areas, including leadership.
10. Act it to Be It
Sometimes we have to practise acting confidently in order to become confident. When you’re in a situation where you’re expected to lead, you’ll also be expected to be confident in doing so. Even if you really don’t feel confident at that moment, try standing (or sitting) up straight, projecting your voice, making eye contact with others and smiling. The air of confidence you’ll give off to everyone will convince them to be confident in you, encouraging you in turn to be confident in yourself.