Experience trumps academics.
Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
As a fellow Missourian, this quote has always resonated with me professionally when it comes to leadership – particularly how it pertains to those of us responsible for business management and leadership.
How does experience vs. academics relate to leadership?
This may come as a surprise, but one of the major responsibilities a leader has to his or her company is to protect their own confidence. Where does confidence come from? Experience. With confidence comes the ability to lead an organization, lead in vision, and lead in conviction, thus enabling everyone to rally to the task at hand and succeed.
If a leader lacks confidence, they cannot lead effectively – if at all. No one will follow.
A high level of confidence is vital to a leader’s clarity, as well as his or her ability to manage, make decisions, and take risks.
What does anything but 100% confidence look like? It shows up as a lack of clarity. Fuzzy vision. It shows up as an inability to make a decision, lead, or move ahead. If a leader is not 100% confident, business management and leadership suffers and so does performance.
Loss of confidence can happen in the snap of a finger. Any hesitation, doubt, or faltering can cause your employees or teammates to question your ability to make decisions in line with the company vision.
Of course, internally, all leaders experience a decline in confidence from time to time. Simply put, when you question yourself, others will, too. Tough times require critical decisions, but they come with risks. Personally, you have to have the clarity to make difficult decisions and see them through. As a leader, you must portray that confidence and strength to your employees, investors, and customers, regardless of whether you feel it or not.
Confidence is such an important quality in leaders that many non-business owners misconstrue CEOs as having an inflated sense of self-worth, or believe they must have been born that way. Many people say entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business owners have big egos and assume they already know everything. They do not.
Even the most confident leaders do have doubts and fears. But they know how to keep them in check and how to practice mentally to do so. Successful leaders have the luxury of being confident because they have gained clarity on the direction they are taking – and that comes from experience. They come across as sure of themselves, but not egotistical. Achieving that level of confidence and clarity doesn’t come automatically, however. It takes work.
How do you protect and gain confidence as a leader?
- Review past successes. What common thread is present that created that success?
- When questioning a decision or direction to take, call a mentor or trusted peer to discuss your thoughts for validation and perspective.
- Replace any negative chatter in your head with positive phrases that indicate what you can and will do.
- Expect the best and act the part.
This last point is most difficult for us women. Leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In,” or Pat Heim and Susan Golant, the authors of “Hardball for Women,” have observed that many women will not step up to more responsibility without being almost 100% confident they are fully qualified. Meanwhile, many men will take on more responsibility, with fewer qualifications, with the attitude they will figure it out.
What is the difference between the two? Confidence, not experience.
Have you figured out the secret? The secret is your mindset and drawing upon your past experiences of achievement and success.
Therefore, I challenge you. The next time you personally have a tinge of doubt in your confidence, remember this definition: Confidence is Arrogance Under Control!
— Tina Corner, Founder, LXCouncil