Trump is in the White House, the iPhone 8 isn’t far away, and now we hear robots are planning to take our jobs. Uncertain times indeed.
These days change is inevitable and guaranteed. So how do we take back some semblance of control over our lives and our careers?
The key to it, I think, is confidence.
While confidence is often defined by a self-assurance in one’s own abilities, uncertain times often work to diminish a leader’s confidence in their organisation, in their employees, and in themselves. So how does one keep their confidence when faced with uncertainty?
1. Confident leaders perceive failure as the beginning, not the end.
Paralysed by fear of uncertainty, many leaders find themselves in endless cycles of the decision making process. These leaders tend to view failure as the end – the end of their success, the end of the company, or perhaps even the end of their career. Confident leaders tend to view failure as a learning opportunity, a part of the discovery process. They do not take unnecessary risks, but rather rely on sound decision making processes to take calculated risks that will springboard them into their next success.
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2. Confident leaders rely on the expertise of others.
We all know of one manager who confused confidence with expertise, eschewing the advice of those that surrounded them. Chances are, their leadership tenure met an untimely demise. Truly confident leaders treat their role in organisations the way a conductor of an orchestra treats his musicians. Understanding that they are not a professional musician in every instrument in an orchestra, conductors provide strategic direction based on the knowledge of how the instruments work together to create the best overall sound. Likewise, confident leaders know they are not experts on every tool, mechanism, process, or skill, but provide strategic direction on how each expert can work together for the overall outcome.
3. Confident leaders own their mistakes.
In a day and age where many people try to take ownership for success while sidestep the blame for their mistakes, confident leaders take responsibility for both. Rather than relying on blame for self-preservation, these leaders instead take responsibility when they are wrong, learn from their mistakes, and move on to greater success. Miraculously, this singular characteristic also inspires subordinates to do the same, creating a culture where fear of failure no longer limits productivity and innovation.
4. Confident leaders communicate purpose.
It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of uncertain times. However, those who lead with confidence also understand and effectively communicate their organisation’s purpose. Part of a healthy psychological reward system, the concept of altruism – behaving for the betterment of others – has been shown to increase job satisfaction and increase workplace cooperation. Confident leaders understand, sometimes intuitively, how their employees’ efforts contribute to the strategic vision of the company at large. Taking this knowledge a step further, they are able to clearly and effectively communicate how the company’s overarching vision translates into action plans at a departmental level. Once their people buy into the purpose, altruism takes over, improving productivity and overall job satisfaction throughout the department.
5. Confident leaders are honest and consistent.
It is tempting to sidestep direct questions about the future of an organisation. Yet truly confident leaders understand that honesty breeds trust and a sense of safety at work. Knowing your boss will give you an honest, direct answer to your question without dancing around the issues gives employees confidence in their leaders. However, honesty must be matched with consistency. If a leader is honest with one group, but betrays that honesty with another, the perception of favouritism arises and employees are left with feelings of uncertainty about their status with their boss. Truly confident leaders are not only honest, but are honest in every situation, every time.
Many people equate confidence with arrogance. While arrogance is wrapped up in ego tied with a ribbon of insecurity, true confidence understands and embraces is fallibility. It sees mistakes as inevitable and failures as learning experiences. It acknowledges the expertise of others and revels in consistent honesty. Perhaps most importantly, confidence does not waver in uncertainty. Those who are truly confident leaders see the chaos of competitive economic times as a way to energise a lagging team and rally them to a common purpose. Uncertainty truly separates the average leaders from the great ones who seem to effortlessly turn uncertainty into opportunity.