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Updated 28 Sep 2020

Leading beyond self-doubt

Self-belief is intrinsic to good leadership.

Stephen Light, Entrepreneur, 02 August 2013  Share  0 comments  Print

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Entrepreneurs are brilliant at taking ideas and turning them into reality. As a business grows, so does the need for people with skills in all areas. This is when most entrepreneurs require leadership skills to ensure people help the business thrive.

A great leader is someone who knows who they are. The single most limiting belief of any successful leader is self-doubt. One of the biggest fears that leaders in today’s modern world have is being discovered to be a fraud.

When I first heard this statement I was really intrigued. Was this the inner saboteur that most leaders carried around with them? Could this possibly be the driver of arrogant aggressive behaviours that are synonymous with “getting the job done?”

I am not suggesting that all leaders behave aggressively and arrogantly. My experience has shown me that when the pressure is on, most leaders resort to an aggressive approach to achieving results. I call this a positional leadership approach.

Positional leaders

Leaders who use the power afforded by their position and title to get people to do the job invariably have an inability to manage themselves. They lack a solid foundation of self-belief that drives a healthy esteem.

They doubt that a caring and firm assertive approach will get compliance. This doubt, coupled with many past experiences of aggression getting results, is the evidence they use to justify their approach.

Look at organisations you work in and have worked in. Notice who gets promoted and what type of behaviour is rewarded. I guarantee that it is mostly people who get results and that these people mostly get their results through people, not with them. Aggression and fear are the unwritten rules of the culture.

Symptoms include gossiping, poorly handled conflict, broken relationships, people’s contribution seldom recognised.

Servant leaders

Servant leaders are leaders who achieve with others. They know themselves and have a healthy appreciation and deep respect for the person they are. They have self-belief. Being challenged by others does not diminish them in any way.

They see challenges as a sign of a healthy work environment where people are allowed to explore and express their views.

Servant leaders encourage conflict and know they can manage it. They want people to get meaning from their work and know this is what will drive fulfillment and a commitment to business. This will have people bring their hearts to work.

This approach requires a leader who is willing to be wrong, willing to listen beyond the words and hear the request behind people’s challenges. These leaders lead beyond self-doubt.

The impact on you

My experience of coaching leaders is that they have a huge fear of being discovered that they actually don’t know how to lead people. This is what they tell themselves.

This limiting belief drives self-doubt and has leaders resort to positional leadership where a fear driven culture is created and authority is not challenged. This way they cannot be found out.

Your journey to being a great leader is one of self-discovery. The more you get to know yourself and love yourself, the more self-belief you have. Self-belief is the antidote to self-doubt.

Great leaders are ordinary people who have learned to genuinely care about themselves. They have no need for external validation as they have healthy self-esteem.

These leaders do the right thing versus what will have people like them or promote them. They can handle criticism and are flexible to changing where required. This is all possible, as they have invested in the most important person – themselves.

Growing self-belief

There are many ways we can grow our self-belief. What I have come to know is that the more I invest in myself, the stronger I am as a person. I trust myself and I trust in the process of life.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others – you are unique
  • Spend 10 minutes every morning and evening quietly focusing on your breath. This creates an inner space for self-management
  • Celebrate your achievements
  • Acknowledge your ‘failings’ and seek the lessons
  • Read and grow your knowledge and understanding of your area of business
  • Trust people by asking them “What do you think?” This will help grow humility.

The world needs leaders who care about others. We can only care about others and demonstrate this in leadership when we care about ourselves. The shift is from self-doubt to self-belief. The key word is self. Only you can give it to yourself.

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About the author

Stephen Light, Entrepreneur

Stephen Light is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, an Associate Certified Coach and an Organisational Relationship Systems Coach. Light assists people and teams to become aware of what is holding them back and then to become conscious and intentional about how they want to be in relationship with themselves and their teams. He helps businesses get teams on track, creating alliances that have teams work from a place of alignment versus the position of difference. He teaches people to understand who they are and why they behave the way they do. Light helps people become responsible and accountable for their lives and the lives of those they impact on. People Activ

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