Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leading => Self-Confidence is Key

A month ago I participated in a teleseminar with Marshall Goldsmith, a leading executive coach and author of numerous books, including Mojo and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Marshall shared a lot of sage advice about coaching executives, but one piece about women leaders struck me. “The average woman is a better leader than the average man,” he said. What held a lot of women back, according to him, was that women are in general “more perfectionistic”, “too hard on themselves”, and “carry around a lot of guilt.” The result is they can come across as a little less confident than men.

Recently, a colleague’s feedback for a female client included the advice: “Trust yourself.” Another female client stated she wanted to work on her confidence at work.

Women at work often exhibit less confidence than men, but men can struggle with this issue too. Even when we think we do trust and believe in ourselves, we can sometimes give off the impression that we don’t by our choice of words and demeanor. Competence, knowledge, interpersonal skills and education may be higher or equal to colleagues, but that apparent lack of self-confidence results in fewer promotions, less influence and stifled success.

In an article in this week's Newsweek entitled "The Beauty Advantage" about how looks influences one’s career, a statement buried in the piece caught my attention: “Asked to rank employee attributes in order of importance, … (hiring) managers placed looks above education: of nine character traits, it came in third, below experience (No. 1) and confidence (No. 2) but above “where a candidate went to school” (No. 4).”

Confidence is the second most important attribute that managers look for in a potential employee.

One of the characteristics of a good leader is having a presence that conveys authority and a comfort in your own skin. Don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t apologize for your ideas. Don’t waver in your convictions. Get rid of the guilt! Self-confidence is not the same thing as arrogance, cockiness, or being ego-driven. Self-confidence is about owning your talents and accomplishments and developing your own potential.

It begins with knowing yourself well. And that is the foundation of an excellent leader.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi talks about her "extraordinary" guilt which she consciously confronted and diminished a year before she became CEO.

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