Simple ways to boost your confidence as an insecure leader

Meryl Streep telling an employee off

I wanted the earth to open and swallow us whole. Or, failing that for an impromptu fire alarm to go off so the meeting would end immediately. I felt sorry for the consultants as my manager made another brutal comment about their work. The consultants couldn´t hide the deflation on their faces. I was sweating as my manager delivered feedback in a way that was so uncomfortable. There were some valid points, but the response was disproportionate to the offence. Instead of pointing out where work was unsatisfactory, they tried to crush the consultants with barbed comments, taking advantage of the fact that a paying client tends to have more power over a consultancy. In fact, their behaviour demonstrated insecurity and the futility of engaging in petty power politics. It didn’t lead to better outputs. It did lead to sub-standard delivery by the consultancy as for much of the time they were walking on eggshells.

There´s a good chance that you´ve been on the receiving end of a manager who acts like an autocrat and not a leader who demonstrates authentic confidence.

These types of leaders throw their weight around. Instead of finding ways to help their team make progress they prefer to sabotage or frustrate the efforts of their team. They tend to overcompensate or act over the top when it comes to demonstrating formal authority as they need to show they are in charge. This weakens the chance for constructive communication or improving performance in the long-term and it is debilitating for team and colleagues.

Poor behaviours include making cutting remarks, mind games, manipulation, withholding information, gossip, being argumentative, interrogating colleagues for no helpful reason, ignoring feedback from colleagues on their leadership style or changing the rules as they suit to do what they want.


Why very insecure leaders a nightmare from hell?

Angry boss pointing his finger


Why do some leaders behave in very insecure ways and inflict their insecurities on their team and colleagues? I believe it comes down to a few factors:

  • They worry about their basic ability to be an effective leader and feel out of their depth.
  • They don’t feel they can control the team’s direction and fret that they can’t deliver objectives.
  • They think they need to know it all and if they show any doubt then others might think they are a pushover.
  • They mistake confidence for control working under the mistaken assumption that believing something makes it so.
  • They suffer from personal insecurities and act out the frustrations from their personal life in the office. Human, but out of order.
  • They don´t like making decisions because they will have to be accountable for them and they are not confident to take risks.
  • They are under a lot of pressure from seniors to succeed and apply pressure to the team instead of inspiration and direction.
  • They have been thrown into a leadership role before they are ready and don´t have the breathing space or support to learn quickly. What should be an opportunity to learn and serve becomes an oppressive experience, a hassle and magnifies personal insecurities.
  • Very occasionally, they are just not nice people.


The damage insecure leadership creates

Jaden Smith crying in the Karate Kid


We all get insecure as leaders. That´s ok. To be a good leader and realise your leadership potential it’s fundamental to get a handle on a lack of leadership confidence. I´d also say if your level of insecurity in your personal life is hurting the way you lead your team, you should tackle this as well. Your team may well be taking worries from office life to their home life due to your poor behaviour, which is not fair, healthy or right.

If you don´t work on creating authentic not fake confidence then what you will have is the following:

  • A team that doesn’t feel inspired and won’t seek new or the best creative solutions nor feel they have the autonomy.
  • A team that is fearful and won’t be transparent with you, point out risks and problems and who feel they must handle you with kid gloves.
  • A team that is on eggshells and who won’t be as productive as they could be. They will use their energy to stay alert to avoid your negativity, instead of feeling confident and relaxed.
  • A team that doesn’t respect you, will only cooperate out of fear, the desire to avoid punishment or consequences, and won´t truly believe in the mission of a company or organisation. Eventually, this will also impact the way it serves customers and other stakeholders.
  • A team that will have doubts about what they are doing since the doubt you have as a leader will be as plain as day, even if you think it isn´t. If you don´t believe in what you are doing as a leader then why should your team?


Try these tips to develop real confidence


People will define ‘confidence’ in various ways and leaders may model their behaviour on what they think they need to show others because it’s how they´ve been treated by their own bosses. Or, they´ve only ever experienced a toxic or borderline dysfunctional leadership culture.

You don’t have to follow that though. It’s better to develop your own style of authentic confidence.

This includes a few essentials to work on and implement.

  1. Reflect on your weaknesses and strengths.
  2. Celebrate the times you´ve exceeded your own or others’ expectations.
  3. Be honest about the gaps in your skill set and competences that if improved might help you to be a better leader.
  4. Develop awareness about what triggers your insecurities.
  5. Boost your confidence with positive reinforcement and positive self-talk.
  6. Prepare well for situations you find challenging at work.
  7. Understand what natural and authentic authority is (which isn’t about making demands, showing who is boss and demanding unswerving loyalty).
  8. Consider seeking out a mentor or role model that embodies and practices positive leadership qualities.
  9. Practice humility, and even if you are a star player in an organisation and actually damn brilliant – don’t ever believe your own hype.

Not all these essentials will apply and you may practice some already. But take some time to consider if there are others you can work on or how you might strengthen these further.

And finally…

Want some help on learning how to reflect as a leader? Get in contact with me.

If you ever feel that you want to improve your ability as a leader or there´s a need for your organisation to reflect on leadership in more depth, consider:

  • Working with me via a formal one to one leadership coaching programme to help you with your strategic thinking and practice positive leadership.
  • My The Influential Leader workshop that will challenge your team, equip them with tools and help create the foundation for a common leadership culture.
  • Getting in contact to discuss a keynote speech or presentation at an upcoming awayday or social event to spark ideas and help colleagues to think their role as leaders.

All information can be read here or I can send you more detail directly if you message me.

Still not sure. Take a few seconds to read what some clients have also said about me here.

See more videos and other content on leadership on my LinkedIn page.

Check out some other articles on leadership and other topics that I’ve written and  subscribe to get new content with insights and tips direct to your inbox!

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