I learned many things in my career from my mentor, Dave. I listened because over the years I learned he was usually right. One of the topics he spoke about frequently was confidence, and why it was critical for leaders.

Everyone thinks great leaders are smart and have great job knowledge, skills, and abilities. Interestingly, I’ve not found those traits to be the key to job tenure. As a Human Resources Executive, I was involved in conversations about leaders and when it was time to make a change. I can count on one of my hands, leaders who lost a job based on job knowledge. They had it. What they lacked was something else. The common denominator was a lack of confidence.

Dave’s response to almost every leadership change in our organization or in others was, lack of confidence.

Let me illustrate with two stories.

Peggi was smart and responsible for a division she helped launch several years earlier, providing a much-needed new revenue stream. Growth and profitability had now stagnated. There wasn’t turmoil inside, she was well liked by staff. The expectations weren’t unrealistic either, just meet the industry averages for growth and profitability. There were many conversations with her, but nothing changed. Ultimately, she was replaced as the leader, to the shock of her team. Why? The senior leaders lost confidence in her ability to lead and grow her division.

Peggi missed one part of the two-part confidence equation.

  1. The organization must have confidence in you as a leader – All leaders face challenges; it goes with the job because if there weren’t challenges, they wouldn’t need you. Whether it’s the person you report to, or the senior leadership in the organization, collectively they must be confident you are the person who can meet challenges and resolve them. When they don’t have confidence in you, when they don’t think you can adapt or change, they will make a change.

Part two of the confidence equation is Cathie’s story.

Cathie led a team within a division and was loved by senior leaders, so much so that if they needed support from the division, they requested her to be the point person. She always delivered. Yet what she delivered came at a price. Cathie pushed her team hard, there was no “work-life balance” for them, and she always took credit for their work. One day, a key team member resigned, no big deal, then a short while later came another, and soon came another. It was noticeable to everyone that no one wanted to work for her. Shortly thereafter, a decision was made to replace her as their leader. Why? Cathie lost the confidence of those she was leading.  

Cathie failed in the second part of the two-part equation.

  1. Your team must have confidence in you – They must believe and trust you. If they quit on you, you’re through as a leader because you can’t lead a group who doesn’t believe in you. A common example of this plays out in professional sports all the time. In every sport, a coach or manager is fired for the poor performance of a talented team. Usually, the team has quit on them.

Confidence is critical. You need your team to have confidence in you and the organization’s leaders must have confidence in you. 50% isn’t enough, you need to be at 100%.

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17

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