Marshall & Friends

Self-Confidence for Leaders


I was recently teaching in a seminar for MBA students at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business. A young second-year student seemed anxious to talk with me. He finally asked: "I have read your book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There. In the book you talk about classic challenges faced by your clients. I noticed that you never discuss self-confidence problems. How do you deal with your client's self-confidence problems?"

This was a great question. It made me realize that I rarely encounter self-confidence problems in my work with CEOs and potential CEOs. It is almost impossible to make it to the top level in a multibillion-dollar corporation if you do not believe in yourself. On the other hand, I am frequently asked to speak at business schools (in fact five this month), and I have noticed that students in my seminars often want to talk about it.

I will share a few suggestions about how you can build your self-confidence, as it is a key quality that leaders must possess. I also hope you, my readers, will offer your own suggestions.

• Don't worry about being perfect. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment—and then go for it.

• Learn to live with failure. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just "ask for the order" more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.

• After you make the final decision—commit! Don't continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.

• Show courage on the outside—even if you don't always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometime. If you are a leader, you direct reports will be reading your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports' self-confidence.

• Find happiness and contentment is your work. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.

Readers: What suggestions might you have to help people increase self-confidence? Any of your thoughts are appreciated.

Marshall Goldsmith is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Succession: Are You Ready? as well as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller What Got You Here Won't Get You There, a Harold Longman Award winner for Business Book of the Year. He can be reached at Marshall@MarshallGoldsmith.com, and he provides his articles and videos online at MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com.

Marshall_goldsmith
Marshall Goldsmith is an expert in leadership who was ranked as one of the field's 15 most influential business thinkers in a study involving 35,000 respondents that was published by The Times of London and Forbes. Goldsmith's books have sold more than a million copies and have been translated into 25 languages. His best selling books include What Got You Here Won't Get You There (also a Longman Award Winner for business book of the year) and MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, and How to Get It Back If You Lose It. His newest book, written with Don Brown and Bill Hawkins, is What Got You Here Won't Get You There in Sales (McGraw-Hill, 2011)

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