A Leader’s Personal Confidence

leadership Jan 19, 2024
leadership skills to build personal confidence

When a leader appears to have little confidence in their own judgement and abilities, why should the leader’s followers respect what the leader says or does?

Personal confidence is confidence in oneself, in one’s own judgement, in one’s own experience, and can be considered to be one’s self-esteem. It’s important to your health and your mental wellbeing.

A leader should possess a workable, reasonable, and proportionate level of self-confidence; sufficient to deliver their work role successfully and efficiently without unnecessary friction, hassle, or rework.

Leadership that displays self-confidence is leadership that seems at ease with itself and the role it is performing. As a result, such leaders attract trust from others which contributes to a positive, productive, and constructive culture. And that’s important for any organisation.

This, like many of the other attributes of leadership, is a balancing act, as “too much self-confidence” is often interpreted as a negative as being a symptom of arrogance and sometimes insensitivity to others. And that has an impact on culture too.

Self-confidence is not only about trusting your own judgement, experiences, and capabilities, but it’s also about having the belief that you are worthy. The belief of self-worth held by self-confident leaders is held despite their past history or past mistakes.

Interestingly, studies have suggested that many legitimately successful leaders sincerely believe that they are not worthy of the role, the responsibility, or the praise. This belief is termed Imposter Syndrome. As a result, they try harder.

More interestingly, those leaders with an over-blown view of their own ability believe that they are great leaders. As a result, they trust their own judgement when it isn’t justified.

Within organisations, people who display proportional and realistic self-confidence are more likely to have their instructions, suggestions, and ideas supported by others, compared to those who show no self-confidence, are consistently and obviously nervous, or who stumble, fumble, and hesitate.

It is hard for leaders to engender loyal and strong followship in a leader who display attributes of low self-confidence. Thus, self-confidence becomes a critical dimension of successful leadership.

There are two subtle dimensions of self-confidence. The first is where you gain mastery over certain skills needed to satisfy your goals. This is termed “self-efficacy”.

The second aspect suggests that when you have achieved self-efficacy, your confidence increases and you’re more prepared to accept new challenges and more prepared to tackle the bigger problems.

In our minds, one of the things that impacts our self-esteem, is the way other people respond to us. If other people behave in a way toward us that suggest to us that they like us, then the way we feel about ourselves will probably increase.

The danger here though, is relying totally on what other people think to sculpt our impression of ourselves. When the opinion of us by others is critical or negative, and we rely totally on it, then we feel very differently about ourselves – and this can be psychologically concerning.

A leader who possesses self-confidence behaves differently than one who doesn’t.

Here are a few examples to illustrate how behaviour alters depending on the presence of self-confidence.

  1. Behaviour: Doing things

With self-confidence: Doing it regardless of the resistance, mockery, and criticism of others because you believe it’s right.

Without self-confidence: Choosing what to do based on what others think of your instruction. Being passive and submissive.

  1. Behaviour: Compliments

With self-confidence: Graciously accept with gratitude.

Without self-confidence: Belittle the act that is being complimented thus belittling the person making the compliment.

  1. Behaviour: Making mistakes

With self-confidence: Admit making a mistake and extract lessons from it to improve and avoid the mistake next time.

Without self-confidence: Try to shield the mistake from view. Cover it up. Try to rectify before it’s noticed. Blame others.

  1. Behaviour: Risk

With self-confidence: Accepting but managing risk.

Without self-confidence: Fearing risk, staying in the comfort zone.

Although the attribute of self-confidence and self-esteem lie very much within a leader’s psyche, they are changeable with adequate focus, understanding, and will-power.

It’s worth remembering that every leader had a time when they weren’t a leader. Every leader had their first opportunity to learn how to be a leader, to manage people, to manage ideas, to manage stakeholders, to resolve problems, to think, to strategize, and to succeed.

For leaders to believe that they’re unique and that their journey is also unique is doing a great disservice to themselves. They’re on a similar journey that millions of other leaders have taken – and it’s up to them to learn and do enough to achieve the outcomes that satisfy themselves and satisfy those to whom the leader is responsible.

Remember, someone thought the leader could do the job, otherwise they wouldn’t be leader.


A leader who feels that their personal confidence is not where it could or should be, has the ability to take steps to remedy the gap. These steps include the following:

  • Body language – appear strong and confident. Avoid slouching, hunching of shoulders, and bowing of heads. When presenting, spread hands apart with palms facing the audience as it shows openness and a willingness to share ideas.
  • First impression - maintain eye contact while you talk. Don't fidget or be distracted or appear anxious.
  • Personal review – consider the areas where you lack confidence. Determine why and develop an action plan to remediate them. Review achievements to understand what worked. Set personal realistic goals and pursue them.
  • Bad habits – based on the personal review, cease the behaviours that negatively impact your personal confidence. Work on the attributes that will give you the personal brand that you want.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others – as this frequently causes low self-esteem. Accept that your success is defined by your own goals, and not those that relate to others.
  • Get into positive relationships – because the confidence of leaders is affected by the relationships they keep. Those relationships should support personal growth and not hinder it.
  • Health and hygiene – the wellbeing of your body impacts your mental dexterity. Stay fit, healthy, and presentable. Avoid personal smells and odours. Wear clean clothes.
  • Treat yourself – you should be your own best friend, so treat yourself well. Appreciate yourself. When you can, make sure you do the nice things for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Try self-affirmation - it works for some people. Find words that are meaningful to you. Repeat them often until they register as “a part of you”. Say them every day when you wake up or walk into the office.
  • Confront your fears – rather than hide from them. What are your fears? Why? What’s causing them? What’s a way for you to decrease or eliminate them?
  • Respect your achievements – understand where you succeeded. Understand why you succeeded. What can you use from those successes with other challenges?
  • Determine what matters – does your sense of self- confidence relate to the things that are important to you? Have you set priorities for yourself? Is your lower self-confidence in areas that don’t matter?
  • Slow down – give yourself some time to reflect and think-through difficult situations.
  • Respect – always be respectful.
  • Say no - learn to say no to unreasonable requests.


If you have or suspect negative responses to these issues, then your leadership or the leadership of others may be compromised.

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We’re proud to advise that the authors of this piece are Advisory & Mentoring directors.