Those of you reading this post, who know me – know that I am pretty confident person, and some might even say I can be over confident at times.  So why is that a bad thing?

Well … when confidence crosses over to arrogance it can definitely put people off.  But there are also people who have a quiet confidence about them – so when does that become a problem?

I have worked with many successful leaders who pride themselves on being able to provide the answers when others may be struggling.  It feels good to be the person people turn to in times of trouble … but who does that leader turn to?

I remember the first time early in my career when I was consulting with a leader who was brought into the organization to drive significant change within the IT function, and during the employee focus groups we heard time and time again that they wanted senior leadership to tell them what the change specifically would look like – to get rid of the uncertainty and ambiguity they were feeling.  So – what do you do when you really don’t have all the answers yet want to come off as a strong and confident leader that others will want to follow?

There are some who would take the approach – to fake until they make it – which on the surface sounds like it might work but only if the leader has a strong team or set of confidantes who he/she can confide in and help him / her to figure it out.  But if the leader takes the stance of being the “all and powerful leader” he or she is likely opening him or herself, and the organization, up to risk.

Yes, it important to be confident but when you are too confident, and aren’t comfortable sharing that you may not have all the answers, and /or try to avoid looking to others for support – you are likely to end up feeling like an island onto yourself.  And ultimately – when the answers don’t come naturally or can’t be found on your island – then inevitably you will start to feel less confident… and if you didn’t ask for help when you could have … you certainly aren’t likely to ask for help now that the island is starting to capsize!

So a few tips to consider to make sure you don’t cross the line where your confidence turns into a deficit vs. an asset.

  • You’re willing to take a stand BUT also know when a key stakeholder shares a different view that is legitimate, it is time to listen and incorporate that view into your own.
  • You have faced similar challenges and you know what to do BUT you also understand that what worked in one situation might not work in the next, and you adapt accordingly.
  • You can figure out most things yourself BUT know that asking others to help you figure it out is better and more sustainable in the long run.
  • You believe your perspective is the correct one BUT are ok with listening to differing viewpoints before declaring yours is the right (or only) way to look at things.
  • You enjoy having the respect of your team, colleagues, and others BUT recognize that this is earned vs. entitled.
  • You possess a strong sense of self BUT don’t need to dominate others to make an impact.

You believe you have what it takes to be successful in your new more complex leadership role BUT you recognize that you will not know or be good at everything right out of the gate – and you are ok with that.

Being confident is certainly a key ingredient in many people’s success – it certainly has been for me. But knowing when and how to demonstrate that confidence is what sustains a person’s confidence (and continued success) over the long haul.