Why Confidence Never Leads (On the Hard Stuff)

Courage, confidence

Here’s what we’ll cover in this informative leadership article:

  • Lack of confidence… an all too familiar scenario in executive coaching
  • Choosing courage when faced with leadership challenges
  • Courage is the catalyst for Confidence
  • The many faces of courage in business
  • How to conquer Imposter Syndrome with 3 strategies
  • Settling for good? Why not achieve GREAT?
  • Your next steps for establishing meaningful goals…

“I am fu@k*ng scared!” With raw honesty, my client admitted those words in a revealing moment during our coaching session together. 

Tasked with managing a division under severe cost-cutting and strategic realignment, she was responsible for difficult decisions, including layoffs and hiring for new skill sets.The well-being of her team and the future of the company depended on her choices.

A Familiar Scenario in Executive Coaching

This scenario, laden with fear and the need for confidence, is a familiar refrain in my coaching experience with high-level executives. It is also a challenge I’ve faced personally.

My client knew she had to act – but the fear was paralyzing. 

Often, this fear isn’t vocalized but internalized, echoing the all-too-familiar narrative of “I’m not good enough,” fostering persistent self-doubt and a fear of being exposed. 

The truth is: confidence doesn’t lead in challenging circumstances.

In transformative situations, confidence is not the precursor; it is the outcome. The true catalyst is courage.

When Faced With Leadership Challenges, Choose Courage

Courage is the behavior that gets us to do the hard stuff – to take that first step forward.

Courage. A word that evokes images of heroes charging into battle, firefighters battling flames, and activists standing their ground against injustice. 

But courage is so much more than grand gestures and moments of physical bravery. It’s a quiet strength, a willingness to face not just external threats, but also our own internal fears, doubts, and vulnerabilities.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. 

Courage Takes Many Forms in Business

Courage is the catalyst for various life challenges. It’s the step into the unknown during a job interview or meeting a new client. It thrives in proposing bold ideas and speaking up in divergent meetings. Whether implementing a new strategy, divesting a product line, or acquiring a company, courage propels action. It focuses organizational goals, prepares for expansion, and handles critical announcements. In personal realms, it’s evident in starting or ending relationships.

As we delve into specific instances, courage manifests in:

  • Job interviews and client meetings
  • Proposing bold ideas
  • Speaking up in meetings
  • Implementing strategies and business decisions
  • Focusing organizational goals
  • Preparing for expansion
  • Handling critical announcements
  • Initiating or concluding relationships
  • Pitching to investors
  • Presenting to the Board of Directors

Courage is the step you take in the face of that intensely unpleasant emotion triggered by the perception or anticipation of danger – whether it’s physical, emotional, real or imagined.

How to Conquer Imposter Syndrome? Try these 3 Tips.

Leaders, know this truth: If you wait for confidence, you’ll miss out. 

  • You’ll regret later on what you wish you did sooner. 
  • You’ll put off what needs to be done now. 
  • You’ll remain stuck

Confidence will emerge. But it starts with courage. 

Imposter Syndrome is an all too common issue many people face – including about 70% of the population. It’s where, despite clear (and obvious) successes, individuals feel undeserving.

You are not alone in this struggle. 

To overcome these feelings and foster action, here are some strategies:

  1. Reframe your current situation. When that voice inside your head doubts your capabilities or questions your worthiness, ask yourself the following question – “What would I have to believe about myself for that to be true?” It’s an incredibly powerful question that will help you get out of your current state that is solely driven by fear. Take note of your response to the question and then ask, “What’s a different way to look at this situation? What’s a more productive and realistic way to see myself?”
  2. Operate from your future self. Envision yourself at some point in the future, looking back on the decisions you made and actions you took. Imagine that you missed out on every opportunity because you failed to activate the courage needed to step outside of your comfort zone. Now, look back from that same point in the future and imagine that you said yes to those opportunities that scared you; you faced every obstacle head on; you learned from your setbacks. Ask yourself – “What would that person do now?” Then, do that.
  3. Stay in the Gain. Dan Sullivan has a concept called the Gap and the Gain. The Gap is the distance between where you are now and where you want to be. The challenge with being in the Gap is that the distant goal post is always moving. The Gap can leave you feeling drained and demoralized, focusing on what you lack. Instead, stay in the Gain. The Gain is the space between where you started and where you are now. It’s the massive change you’ve made up to this point in your life or career. The Gain, however, celebrates how far you’ve come, fostering gratitude and a positive outlook.

As a leader, are you settling for good when you could achieve GREAT? 

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, highlights the danger of settling for ‘good’ when ‘great’ is achievable: 

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for the good life.”

As we enter the new year, don’t just settle for good. Don’t let fear paralyze and rob you of the great that could be yours. 

Start with courage, and confidence will follow. 

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(1) Comment

  • Henry Wood January 15, 2024 @ 2:46 pm

    Great article and timely for me personally. I’ve firsthand seen good get in the way of great for companies which prevented them from making the leap that they should have made. Looking back, it was also the lack of courage that held them back all along.

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