While there are many ingredients in the recipe for developing as an effective leader, two that provide a healthy percentage of the raw materials for your success include: people’s perception of your self-confidence, and their perception of your ability to clearly articulate yourself. Fail at one or the other, and your road to success is a good deal more treacherous.
Exhibiting Self-Confidence is Much About Demeanor and What You Don’t Say:
Portraying confidence is a tricky issue for some. There’s a fine line between projecting self-confidence and being perceived as cocky or arrogant. Also, don’t pressure yourself into believing that people will only perceive you as confident if you showcase that you know the answer to every question. No one loves a know-it-all.
The effective leaders I’ve observed have what I describe as a quiet but clearly visible sense of self-confidence. They don’t portray themselves as having all of the answers, but they absolutely exude an air of “we’ll find a way forward” through even the most difficult of circumstances. Their ability to reassure fosters an atmosphere that reduces fear and focuses on problem-solving.
These self-confident leaders also listen more than they talk. They practice universal respect…and they live by a seek first to understand philosophy. They are more like guides and teachers than generals, although in times of crisis, they are able to summon their inner-general and take command as needed.
One last caveat on the externally confident leader. The best ones I’ve known are quick to admit in private that they struggle with the same fears and unknowns as the rest of us. They also understand that part of their role is helping others develop confidence in themselves regardless of the situation, and they draw upon an inner strength that manifests itself in the right body language and the right behaviors at the right time.
Achieving clarity in your messaging is challenging. What’s missed by many is the profound impact that their words have on their team members as well as on how other leaders perceive them. A simple top-of-mind comment on a topic that you haven’t thought through is capable of rippling through an entire organization as a statement of policy or at least as the boss’s strong opinion, thus changing behaviors potentially in the wrong direction.
Every interaction is an opportunity to create value by moving towards clarity around issues, ideas or direction. Managed properly, your messages reduce destructive friction in the workplace. Know however, that getting messaging right in the workplace is something you have to execute upon in every encounter and with every communiqué.
Just like the rules of delivering effective feedback, your words have to have a clear core message and logical supporting points. Explaining the business rationale for a decision provides much needed context, and ensuring that people understand expectations and accountabilities, helps close the communication loop. Following up with questions to ensure understanding and/or to identify perception gaps is a critical activity in getting your message right.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Like it or not, you are being judged in Court of Credibility at every encounter and at every exchange. As the person in charge, everyone is looking to you for hope and direction. The perception that people have of your own confidence in the situation provides hope and encouragement. Your ability to articulate points that promote the right actions and behaviors is essential to achieving clarity. Both take a great deal of self-awareness and deliberate practice. Remember, no one said this would be easy.
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