The currency of confidence

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At the end of each Foundation for Effective Leadership program, I ask participants to complete a survey about their experience and what they learned. In our last cohort, several participants named their primary focus and most impactful change from the program as an increase in confidence.

Confidence is complex. I know this personally from my experience in business and competitive sports. It depends heavily on context and can shift accordingly.

The reality is that confidence often develops on the back of experience as well as competence. We have it “under our belt” so to speak, and tend to rely on what we’ve learned from our experiences.

Speaking of experience, it often comes with mileage (read: years/age). But many of our program participants are at the front end of their professional careers, without that traditional stretch of time that confidence-building may require.

The question then becomes: How do emerging leaders build confidence? For those who are at the front end of their journey?

Well, as it turns out, confidence can come from many sources. And in the case of our recent participants (two in particular), they found confidence in themselves.

Intrinsically, they felt their confidence grow from a developing a deeper understanding of who they are and by defining what’s important to them. They gave themselves “white space” to think, when they envisioned a future they want to create based on who they are and what’s important to them. Both inside and outside of work. As a “whole” person.

The impact of that understanding proved monumental; because the confidence they gained on a personal level -- about themselves -- appeared to neutralize the perceived lack of confidence from limited experience.

Which goes to show that confidence can come in many forms. And in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world filled with rapid and continuous change, what could be more effective than developing confidence in ourselves?