The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Leadership’

Apr 06

Dilbert on leadership

I started a new freelancing gig at a global ad agency today.  I’ve been inundated with information all day, and man alive am I knackered.

That’s normal though, what’s a little different this time is that it’s a position more senior than any I’ve done before.  I’ve lead multi-million pound projects and teams with dozens of people, but in those roles the leadership was secondary to my responsibility for delivery.  This time it’s all about the leadership.

When I spoke with one of the head guys from the New York office, he mentioned to me that he’d seen how laid back the English were in business compared with their New York counterparts.  He observed that a New York business leader will be more blunt and more confrontational when necessary, whereas us Brits will be more subtle and circumspect.

I agreed with him, I’ve observed the same thing.  Does that mean that New Yorkers are better leaders than the English?

Of course not, but he made me think about what kind of leader I am, and what kind of leader I’m not.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” Max DePree

The traditional belief is that a good leader needs to be some kind of ‘alpha’ type – some go-getting, work-chewing, dog-eat-dog person who’s focused on getting results at all costs.

I couldn’t disagree more.

For me, being a leader involves 3 things:

1. Having a clear vision.
2. Being willing and able to take people with you on a journey.
3. Using your strengths to make things work.

If a leader does those 3 things then they’re onto something, and it’s because of that definition that I think everyone has the capability to be a leader, and many already are.

What stops a lot of leaders – or potential leaders – from applying those 3 tenets is fear, plain and simple.  Fear that they’re going in the wrong direction, fear that people won’t follow or fear that they’ll fail.  I think perhaps the biggest fear of any leader is that they’re not strong enough, that they don’t have the more traditional leadership traits in sufficient quantities to be effective.

Follower or leader?It’s that fear of being weak – or to put it another way, the fear of being too much of a follower – that drives them to behave in the ways they think they ought to behave rather than using their natural leadership traits. That’s what can destroy a perfectly good leader.

Whether you have a leadership role in a startup, a leadership role as a parent , a leadership role in a social group or whether you’re leading a whole country (hello Mr Obama and Mr Brown), you’re also allowed to be a follower.

Don’t think for one second that you have to lead constantly and can’t look to others or follow others.  You need to lead consistently, yes, but not constantly.

Do you think that Barack doesn’t look up to anyone or feel inspired by anyone?  Do you think that Richard Branson doesn’t hear what people say or follow what’s important to him? Do you think that Hillary doesn’t look to the people she respects or listens to anyone?

Being a great leader requires openness and a willingness to go off-road and explore the unknown when necessary.  That means that there has to be a balance between leading and following – leading forges your path, following helps you learn.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” John F. Kennedy

Just look at Twitter – everyone and anyone following all kinds of people.  Even the big guys are following people, and I’d say the people who really get it are perfectly happy to follow people who might be perceived to be lower down the food chain, simply because they know they can learn something from them.

Something funny happened on the way to posting this article.  Just when I was putting the finishing touches to my thoughts here, I saw Penelope Trunks article about leadership in the new millennium, where she points out how important following is.  “Damn it”, I thought. “Now it’ll just look like I’m following her lead.”

An interesting irony, don’cha’think?

That demonstrated my own fear about not being ‘alpha’ enough, which was also demonstrated when I was talking with the New York guy about my freelance gig.  When confronted with his idea about how non-confrontational us Brits were, there was a moment where my confidence in being able to do this new role vanished, and I thought to myself “I’m not an alpha kinda guy, I’m just Steve“.

Well, that’s true.  I’m not a traditional alpha kinda guy, but I know that I have a whole bunch of stuff that makes me sure I’ll be bloody good in that role, not least is my ability to adapt and learn (as my experience today is proof of).

Having the confidence to be both a leader and a follower is where the power and potential really is.

“We exercise our leadership best when we are also listening…” President Obama, G20 Summit

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Feb 05

Back when I was twentysomething (some time ago now) I went to a movie premiere in London for a Tim Robbins movie called ‘Cradle Will Rock‘.  You probably haven’t seen it as it kinda sank without trace, but it was about a guy who pushes forwards with the production of a play in 1930’s New York against massive pressure from the authorities and incredible odds.  He pushes through, keeps on going, puts on the play and changes lives in the process – simply because it mattered to him.

After the movie there was a Q&A session with Tim and Susan, and a woman sitting in front of me asked Tim, “Do you think the world needs more heroes?

I was stunned by the question because I hadn’t thought of the character as a hero, but Lizbeth (the woman, who I was so impressed by that I flirted with her at the after party and ended up dating) changed my definition of what a hero is.

Marvel Comics

Which brings me to Barack Obama.

I’m a lot like him – don’t know if you knew that about me.

Well, actually, now I think about it, I’m not that much like him.  In fact, about the only 2 things we have in common is our love for good pizza and being big fans of Spider-man.

I’ve been a superhero nut forever, and just love the fact that Obama is too.  As far as I’m concerned, that means he understands some fundamental principles about life and courage –

With great power comes great responsibility…” – Uncle Ben

That Uncle Ben was a smart cookie, and that famous quotation sums up what I love about superhero mythos.

The thought that people are walking among us doing amazing things every single day, by using their power responsibly to help other people and add value to mankind, is one that makes me grin from ear to ear.  The fact that they get to wear cool outfits, fly and shoot laser beams out of their eyes is even cooler.

When Stan Lee first created Marvel Comics, he did so with the aim of creating fantastic characters, but characters who are also wonderfully and tragically human. He populated his comics with characters we can all relate to – people with fears, hopes, anxieties and a whole load of contradictions.  Of course there’s loads of action and fantasy, but that’s all set against a strong thread of humanity that runs through everything.

Here’s another line, this time from the movie Spiderman 2 –

“Everybody loves a hero.  People line up for them, cheer them, scream their names. And years later, they’ll tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who taught them to hold on a second longer.

I believe there’s a hero in all of us. That keeps us honest.  Gives us strength.  Makes us noble.” – Aunt May

Aunt Many rocks just as much as Uncle Ben, and she hit the nail on the head.

We’ve all had people who’ve inspired us, touched us or taught us something important.  Someone who gave us the strength to keep going or showed us that we had the courage to hold on a second longer.

Tim Robbins did just that in that movie I talked about, and I’ll bet my shoes that you have a teacher, a parent, a friend, a partner or whoever else who did something similar in your life.  That’s why I believe that there IS a hero in all of us.

There is a piece of yourself that’s honest, strong and noble.

Clark Kent was mild mannered, but had bags of honesty, strength and nobilityThere’s a part of yourself that knows what you need to do, not just for you but for the greater good.  There is a piece of yourself that can make incredible things happen.

That’s how amazing things happen in the world, and that’s how real, positive change happens – by being confident and courageous enough to tap into that piece of yourself and apply it out there in the world.

Tim Brownson got a great response in a recent article about courage, because I believe it’s a stirring concept that all of us are able to connect with at a deep level.  That article got the response it got because we all relate to the golden humanity that sits at the centre of courage and heroics – the honesty, strength and nobility that we all possess.

I’ll never stop loving super heroes, because I’ll never stop believing that they actually exist, and that they really are all around us.  Maybe I’m living in cloud cuckoo land, but I really don’t care.

What I care about is that people do amazing things every single day, and your potential to do amazing things never diminishes.  As far as I’m concerned you already have great power.  As Uncle Ben says, when you find the confidence to take responsibility for it, you’re a real hero.

That’s why I love that Obama’s a Spider-man fan, because it tells me that he understands.

So you want to be a hero?

1. Imagine that you’re someone out of the ordinary. In fact, you’re completely extraordinary.  You have all kinds of special abilities and powers that you’re just beginning to learn about and that nobody else really knows you have. You’re different. You’re special. You’re unique. You’re amazing.

What difference does knowing that you have all these powers and abilities make? When you’re walking down the street, fixing dinner or in a meeting at work, how does it feel to have all that inside you?

2. Are you being true to who you really are? Are you using your gifts and powers? Are you making the most of who you really are?

3. How can you use your abilities and powers – whether to enhance your own life or the lives of people important to you? How can you add value, simply by using what you were born with?

Dec 08

I found this fantastic story about a guy called David Thorne. He couldn’t afford to pay an overdue bill, and approached his situation with some brilliant creativity and some stunning cheekiness.

I’ve had my fair share of financial worries (that’s like saying Lehman Brothers had a bit of a cashflow problem) and it’s a horrible place to be. That’s why I love what he did so much.

David tries to pay his bill with a drawing of a spider

The man’s brilliant.

I love the fact that he’s clearly a bright guy and found a way to settle the matter that just might have worked because it was so out there. Another time, another place, it could have worked.

Here’s what happened next.

David shows come brilliant confidence and cheekiness...

You’ve gotta give David credit for consistency and creativity.

Sometimes confidence is doing something that appears to be plain crazy, simply because it fits with who you are and just might make something happen.

Where could you benefit from being more creative, confident and cheeky?

Sep 25

So McCain seems to have put things on hold to head to Washington to focus on the economy. Well, I’m no pundit and I’m not about to start spouting forth about the campaign itself, but allow me a little spouting about his decision.

It’s not consistent. It seems like the news that the economic situation has put Obama ahead in the polls plus Friday’s presidential debate has given McCain some serious willies.

The decision to put his campaign on hold and his request to postpone the debate is crazy, especially when Bush has invited both McCain and Obama to Washington to discuss the bailout plan and Obama has said that the debate should go ahead.

I have no problem with McCain focusing on what’s happening in the markets and where the bailout plan is heading, but his decision shows a real inconsistency and communicates the wrong message.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying that the presidential debate should go on, saying “If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.

A confident McCain?Exactly. What’s happening in the world – whether it’s the economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Zimbabwe or Somalia – makes it even more important that the White House is inhabited by a leader who can look at more than one thing at a time.

If it’s an honest and integrity-lead decision, his request to postpone the debate would cast doubt on his ability to do the job and trust his team. If the decision’s one that comes from the needs of his campaign then it shows a huge lack of confidence in the campaign direction, debate performance and support team. If it was a consistent, congruent and confident presidential team they wouldn’t need to put things on hold and duck out of the debate.

A confident leader is one who doesn’t pull back from the big game when the going gets tough

Sure, you need to adjust the rudder if the wind changes, but McCain’s decision is inconsistent with his aims, and shows a serious lack of confidence and consistency.

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Sep 10

Palin - another myopic, gun loving Vice-President?After my article on the difference between confidence and arrogance recently, a couple of people emailed me to ask where I thought Sarah Palin was on that scale.

My answer? She’s arrogant.

Sure, her speech was a virtuoso performance and she certainly seemed to be completely confident with both the delivery of her speech and its content. But that’s where I think she crossed the line.

Let’s look at the differences:

  • Arrogant people strive to be right
    However much I disagree with her beliefs and politics I can’t knock her for having strong opinions and keeping true to them. That’s part of what it is to be confident. The problem I have is when, in the belief that she’s right, she uses flawed arguments to demonstrate she’s right and attempts to stamp that on the people and communities around her (in cases like Troopergate and the Librarian)

    Throughout the speech there was no question about whether she thought every word coming from her lips was right and it seems like her career to date has also been one where she’s operated from a stance of being right. Put someone like that in a position of power and it spells danger.

  • Arrogant people want to build themselves up
    There’s no doubt that Palin’s become a household name and secured her position as one of the worlds most powerful women, which should be applauded. What grated with me is how she used her speech to take the piss out of other people and belittle the achievements of others, most notably how (in a single sentence) she dismissed the roles and achievements of community leaders across the USA.

    The almost childish tone of one-upmanship left me with my mouth wide open, and the realisation that she’ll willingly kick people to the curb and do what’s necessary to elevate her position.

    It’s great that she’s a Mum with a successful career and her family is clearly important to her. But while politicians have introduced their families to the media for decades, using them as an integral part of a make-or-break speech to help bolster her position as a multi-tasking, values-led success is another thing entirely.

  • Arrogant people bluff their way
    Styled and coiffured to within an inch of her life, she certainly presented a convincing and powerful image. But it looks like the experience and track record she trumpeted is questionable, and the credibility she strived to portray just isn’t there.

    Yes, people need to have confidence in the ability of a President or Vice-President to do the job, but I think it’s okay to be inexperienced as long as you’ve demonstrated considerable skill and talent and it’s clear you have the ability to learn the right lessons fast.

    Any position at the White House is going to need you to step it up several gears, hit the ground running and learn quick, but with the level of bluffing that Palin has kicked off her campaign with I wonder if she’ll be honest and responsible enough to learn the required lessons.

  • Arrogant people don’t listen
    It’s one thing to know your own mind and another to not give room to the opinions of others. She spent a large part of her speech talking about how America needs to become more energy independent, which is a worthy goal but her environmental record is pretty shocking, even to the point of choosing to not listen to leading scientific experts and groups such as the Centre for Biological Diversity.

    She spoke about how Obama doesn’t talk about “victory” with regard to the wars in Iran and Afghanistan, but if she was paying attention she’d see that there’s no victory to be had in the traditional sense, and looking at it in black and white terms is dangerous.

    She’s made it clear that she listens to what she wants to listen to – the voices that agree with her own opinions and beliefs.

  • Arrogant people talk first and think later
    Long time Republican speech writer Matthew Scully was the pen behind the speech, and it’s arguable how much Palin inputted personally. Some of the digs, claims and jibes in the speech should have rung an alarm bell or two with her though, especially as she’s no stranger to the power of veto.

    Her willingness to talk without apparent thought to consequences or due-diligence add weight to the argument that she believes she’s in the right, and her record is dotted with times where she talked and acted based on that instinct rather than a more considered stance.

    She likened herself to a pit-bull with lipstick. Pit-bulls aren’t known for their deep thinking and will act on instincts based on self-preservation, hunger and play.

I realise there’s a dichotomy here in that I haven’t written about Obama or Clinton and whether they’re confident or arrogant. Does that introduce some hypocrisy to what I’ve written?

I don’t believe so, although Obama’s recent “pig” comment was certainly ill-judged. I’ve worked with successful, professional women over the last 6 years and have helped them manage career, family, relationships and confidence. I love seeing women doing things on their terms and having success in a way that’s relevant and meaningful to them, and to me there’s a dignity and integrity to Barack and Hillary that I didn’t see in Palin (at least, not yet), and perhaps that’s what really troubles me.

Jun 03

Check out this great clip.

The clever thing about it is that people can relate to both parts – the pessimistic, apathetic part, and the optimistic, hopeful part.

As human beings we all have those sides to us. Some days we couldn’t give a flying fig about things, other days we plug into what matters and get involved. But this clip made me think – what happens if these 2 sides are perfectly balanced, 50/50?

It means equilibrium.
It means that things won’t move forwards.
It means that we get in our own way.

So the elephant in the room is the fact that if Gen Y really wants to move the world forwards they need to shift that equilibrium. They need to shift the balance away from apathy and towards engagement.

The optimism, flexibility and ‘can-do’ attitude of Gen-Y is well documented, particularly with regard to changing the workplace, but I’ve seen indications in my own work and in the writing of others that Gen-Y isn’t quite so ‘can-do’ as they like to think they are. This makes me think that for all the talking up and hopeful interchange, much of Gen-Y will hit a wall where they discover that changing things is much more difficult than they thought.

There’s a big can of worms here, because I’m always coaching people on knowing the difference between the things in their life that they can change and influence and the things they can’t. I’ve seen clients bang their heads against brick walls trying to get things to happen, when it’s either completely out of their control or something that just isn’t ready to happen, so I let them know that it’s okay to stop bashing away against something they can’t change, and that that energy is better used elsewhere.

But maybe that’s missing an important point – that if everyone simply focused on the things that they can change and influence the equilibrium remains intact. Surely to move things forwards in line with the optimistic and hopeful side of us we need to engage with more than the things we can control. We need to engage with the things that seem to be out of control.

I honestly believe that everyone wants their life to matter; that everyone wants their contribution to the world to be greater than the sum of the parts. The problem, of course, is how that can happen in a world that seems to make that as difficult as possible, and how you can deal with the sometimes paralysing fear that what you do won’t matter.

Here’s what I think.

Changing the world, or at least your world, sounds like a mammoth, intimidating, confidence shredding task. But if you shift your own equilibrium, so that you’re spending more of your time engaging rather than not engaging, the rest will follow. Simple as.

It’s much easier to find the confidence and courage to plug into something that matters to you, as it means that you don’t have to worry about whether what you’re doing will matter to the world or contribute to a Big Picture. It just means that as long as what you’re plugged into means something to you, that’s all that really matters.

So by all means engage with something as big or complex as volunteering for a charity, standing on a political stage to make your viewpoint heard, taking part in a community project, working for an organisation with values you connect with or helping a friend in crisis. But it doesn’t have to be big, grand or life-changing. It could also be as simple or as small as engaging with a friendship, giving your barrista a smile, taking time to listen to a colleague’s point of view, making a suggestion instead of making a criticism, or any one of a million other things.

The point is this – if you can decide to spend more of your time plugged into things that mean something to you than not plugged into much at all, then you’ve got something special.

That’s how the equilibrium shifts, and that’s how things change.

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May 29

Put your feet up why don't you?There’s a lot of talk out there about being professional and growing up. Ryan Healey’s at it. Ryan Paugh’s at it. Angela Marino’s talking about it – and that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Sure, as you go from college to the workplace and even as you get promoted there’s a certain amount of growing up that needs to be done. Work isn’t optional unless you’re pretty darn lucky, money can be hard to come by and those pants aren’t gonna wash themselves.

But please, can we give the whole ‘being professional’ thing a rest? This is a real bug-bear of mine, because if you set out to ‘be professional’ you won’t be doing your best work and you’ll keep missing real success.

When you hit the workplace for the first time, or if you switch jobs and enter a new workplace, there’s a very real temptation to show your best side to your new colleagues and new boss. It’s like going on a date – you want the other party to see you as a great person, someone who’ll add a huge amount while not causing trouble, and you do that by taking care to show only the parts of you that you think will get the result you’re looking for. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to give a good impression and I applaud someone who’s keen to show their best strengths and assets.

The problem comes when you start filtering your behaviour and judgement so that you fit in with what you think it means to be ‘professional’ or ‘grown-up’. Too many times, ‘being professional’ means self-editing.

I’ve seen it loads of times. Cassie complained to me that she felt awkward in meetings, like her confidence vanished. When we dug into it, the reason for her awkwardness and low confidence was that she was self-editing what she did and said based on what she thought being a professional meant she should be doing and saying. When she let go of the idea of being professional she had more impact in her meetings, made a valid and valued contribution and did more great work as a result.

Shelley felt stuck in her law firm and didn’t know why her career wasn’t taking off in the way she hoped it would. She was demotivated and her confidence was steadily slipping. When we got down to it – guess what? – we saw that she was so busy pussy-footing around, trying to fit in, trying to get on with her colleagues and trying to be professional that she forgot about doing great work in a way that works for her.

She’d started out at her firm careful to make a good, professional impression, and before long that became automatic. ‘Being professional’ became a primary focus, and she clean forgot about using her strengths and values to do great work.

These are just 2 examples, and there are countless more, myself included. Some years ago I drove myself nuts while self-editing and squeezing myself into a box marked ‘professional’. It wasn’t a box that I fitted into and I hated every moment, all the while pretending it was fine because it was the professional thing to do.

The problem’s always the same – thinking that you need to grow up and be professional in order to fit into an organisation and do your job well. Do this and you’ll limit yourself and will be getting in the way of your own success.

The solution’s the same too – putting your primary focus onto doing great work by using your strengths, talents and values instead of fitting into how you assume you should be behaving. Do this and you’re free to do your best work by being yourself.

I’m a laid back guy. I love to laugh. I love not taking things seriously. When I’m freelancing (even on Big Messy Project) I deliberately take time to forget about being professional, because I know that frees me up to do my best work.

That’s not to say that I drop my trousers and moon people in meetings or that I come back from lunch with a half-drunk bottle of tequila and a completely drunk Mariachi band in tow. Reggie Perrin’s a hero of mine, but I’m not going to be as unprofessional as he was.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Nope, I’m talking about how you shouldn’t make ‘being professional’ your focus, not how you should make an ass out of yourself and get fired.

Please, please, please don’t be so keen to grow up and be professional. It’s vastly over-rated and no fun at all.

So what are your experiences with ‘being professional’? Do you feel the need to be professional that you sometimes struggle to deliver against? Have you seen that ‘being professional’ stops you from doing your best work, or maybe you’ve seen that it helps? Lemme know.

May 05

In my freelancing work that I do alongside my coaching I was given a Big Messy Project to run for an ad agency in London, and an old problem of mine resurfaced.

I like things to run smoothly and I like everyone to work together, have fun and deliver great results. So when conflict arises I really struggle with it; firstly because my life is generally conflict free, secondly because I always do what I can to set things up ahead of time to ensure there isn’t any, and thirdly because it makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable.

One part of the team wanted to deliver the project a particular way with a specific creative concept, while another part wanted another concept. Both sides were passionate about their position, and each was using all kinds of tricks to strengthen their position, even to the point of undermining mine. My responsibility was to find a workable solution that everyone could get behind, that (most importantly) gave the client exactly what they were looking for.

Here’s what I did, and here are 5 strategies you can use to handle conflict.

  1. Listen
    Make sure you’ve heard everyone and respect their point of view. You don’t necessarily have to understand everyone’s perspective (doing that can take a lifetime), but you need to have a true respect for their position. Not only does that mean that you’re fully informed about what’s happening and where people are, but it demonstrates the value of the relationships you have and that you’re happy to listen and willing to engage with others.

    It also means that you might see a way through that hadn’t occurred to you before; it gives you the opportunity to grab nuggets of gold from different people to create a way forward that’s a workable and effective compromise.

  2. Do your due diligence
    If there are facts you need to gather or new areas you need to explore, make sure you go deep enough into those areas to figure out the depth and breadth of them. Of course, that assumes you have the time to do that, so this is a tricky balance between doing enough due diligence to be informed, checking in with your instincts and leveraging your experience to anticipate the different paths.

    So what do you need to know, and what’s the best way to get those answers? Work that out with an open mind and you’ll be in a stronger position to move forwards.

  3. Don’t make it personal
    When someone’s disagreeing or even attacking your position it’s easy for emotions to get involved. Frustration, anger and blame can all get swept up, and before you know it you’ve got a bigger problem than you ever thought.

    Don’t make it personal. If someone disagrees with your position they’re allowed to, just as you’re allowed to disagree with others. The moment that you start taking differences of opinion as personal criticism and judgement (even if that’s exactly what’s being thrown at you) you’ll either be on the defensive or will come out on the offensive with all guns blazing.

    Be passionate if you’re passionate and recognise your emotions; but balance that with the facts and a liberal sprinkling of common sense.

  4. Be ready to be wrong
    If you’re wrong, admit it. Don’t hang on to your position just for the sake of wanting to be right – that’ll get you into more hot water, will waste everyone’s time and will really screw things up.

    Being wrong isn’t a bad thing – it shows that you’re switched on enough to do the best thing for all concerned and find the best route through, even if that flies in the face of what you were thinking previously.

  5. State your case simply and assertively
    The more complicated you make things the more complex it’ll be for you and other people to unravel. Simplify what’s happening, simplify your position (even take a moment to jot down some bullet points) and figure out the simplest way to move forwards. Even if you don’t have all the answers, you need to be confident enough in the solution to make a decision and state your case.

    There’s a point where the debate needs to be over, and you need to communicate that in a way that engages rather alienates. Let people know coolly and unambiguously what the facts are and the way forward.

Everyone has their own challenges when it comes to handling conflict, and these are just a handful of the strategies I’ve employed at various times. How do you deal (or not deal) with conflict?

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Apr 14

Can you be a leader and not be confident?

Hell yeah.

While the Obama’s, Clinton’s, Trump’s , Blair’s and even the Bush’s of the world all seem to be confident (even if where they’re placing their confidence is just plain nuts), I’m willing to bet that there are times when they don’t know what the heck they’re going to do and are shaking in their boots.

The same goes for leadership on a smaller scale. If you’re a new manager or have some leadership responsibility then don’t worry, you’re allowed to not be confident.

There are many styles and definitions of leadership, but as I see it, a leader is simply someone who takes people from point A to point B. A leader is someone who knows what the destination is, believes in the benefits of getting there and inspires others to join them on the journey.

A leader has confidence in the direction they’re heading in; a leader has confidence that the end point is ‘right’ and a leader has the confidence to fully engage with the journey.

And here’s the key difference – a leader does not need to be confident in the specifics of each step of that journey, they just need to be confident that the journey matters.

Read that last sentence again.

People can spot a leader who’s faking it from a mile away, so the real trick if you’re in a leadership position is to put effort into getting to the same place of (un)confidence. That’s true, authentic leadership, and the only way to have that is to know yourself well enough to have figured out that you can learn, adapt and grow, and from knowing what really matters to you.

This ties in nicely with the 3rd Principle of Self-Confidence – “Being truly confident doesn’t mean you can’t not be confident”, and the leaders who’ve inspired me and who I look up to most certainly have this in common. I’m willing to bet that the leaders you look up to do too.

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Mar 24

Gen-Y professionals seem to generate 2 responses from people. The first is that they’re honest, capable, resourceful, valuable and enthusiastic individuals and a valuable asset to an organisation. The second is that they’re they’re a bunch of selfish, needy, disloyal know-it-alls who are headed for the biggest of reality-checks.

I’ve come across both of these Gen-Y types in my time, both personally and professionally (and I know which I prefer), but I don’t think this is particularly new. There have always been ‘good guys’ and there have always been ‘jerks’.

In a recent article in Business Week, Jack and Suzy Welch argue that there are two reasons why Gen-Y gets a bad rap –

The first is the age-old human propensity to worry about the wayward values of ‘kids these days’. Your grandparents worried about your parents, who worried about you, and someday your kids will worry about theirs. The second reason is something we call trend inflation. With the explosion of media outlets in every form, all of them needing content, there has emerged a relentless parade of so-called cultural phenomena backed up by little more than the vague phrase, ‘experts say’.”

I think it’s a little more than that. We’re so indundated by media messages that the emergence of online digital media has helped shift things from a ‘push’ environment where information and ads are pushed onto the consumer to a ‘pull’ environment, where the consumer is massively more selective and able to filter what they see and when they see it.

This seems to have fed into the Gen-Y attitude, putting them in a much firmer position of choice about what happens and how. Undoubtedly there’s more choice these days – from what work you do and how you get it done, to what you eat and how you socialise, to where you live and how you pursue success.

And this is where Gen-Y can turn into a bunch of needy know-it-alls. The problem comes where they pursue an idea of success that they’ve absorbed rather than developed for themselves. Taking on an idea of success from the outside means that it will never mean much – it’ll only appear to mean something until that inevitable day when you wake up and find your life meaningless. It’s typically these people who go around with a sense of entitlement, acting like they know it all and (when you get right down to it) chasing something for no other reason than it looks good and keeps them busy.

The other approach, adopted by the kind of Gen-Y people that I love, is to figure out what success really looks like and get clear on what you want to build for yourself and those you care about. This comes from a place of knowing who you are and what you’re about – yep, a place of self-confidence.

Jack and Suzy echo this:

…the question ‘Does success only have to be about money?’ came up just the other evening at dinner with a Gen Yer we know who earns a modest salary as an assistant golf pro. ‘I wake up every morning thrilled about getting to work and helping people,’ he told us. ‘That’s what makes me feel successful.’

The Gen-Yers who understand that they’ll be able to live a full life and contribute to whatever rocks their world as long as they’re living life from the inside-out are the ones who will succeed. These are the folks who are making change happen, who’re setting up businesses in line with what they care about and who’re being snapped up by organisations around the world.

Remember who you are and what’s important to you; then you’ve got it made.

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