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Dan's Insights and Inspirations for Empowered Leadership

How to SEEM More Confident

Ask anyone to name some indispensable qualities of leadership, nine times out of ten, you'll hear this word: confidence. For better or worse, confidence is often the "it" factor that marks average people as potential leaders.

Like Zora Hurston said, "Those that don't got it, can't show it. Those that got it, can't hide it." From the ball field to the board room, if you have authentic confidence, you stand out in a crowd. In times of chaos and uncertainty (times like THIS year), people with confidence are often handed the opportunity to lead. Because, let's admit it, we all like our leaders to be steady and sure of themselves, free from self-doubt. 

But what if you have the responsibility of leadership, but you don't have the authentic confidence needed to lead? How can you gain the confidence to match the moment?

How to Fake It

Well, one option is to fake it. There are certainly tricks you can use to seem more confident for a moment. Make your voice an octave deeper (that really works), stand with your shoulders straighter, or speak with more authority. Those things work for a second, but it wears off fast. The people you lead will eventually see through that. And honestly, they deserve better from you. 

So, how do you seem confident longer than a moment? Here's the answer. Be more authentic. 

That’s not a evasive answer. That's the real answer. 

How to be Authentically Confident

In my book, Authentic Leadership, I describe how leaders learn to be authentically confident by building the right foundation.

Authenticity is rooted in naturally acquired confidence. It comes from the belief that you have enough, and you are good enough.

Good enough to meet the challenge in front of you. 

Good enough to figure it out. 

Good enough to connect with others. 

Good enough to reveal your real thoughts and your true self to others. 

That kind of natural confidence only develops after you’ve wrestled self-doubt to the ground. It comes after you’ve endured challenges without quitting or compromising. It comes after you’ve evaluated your weaknesses with clear eyes and learned how to succeed in spite of them. It comes after you've created a foundation of knowledge and experience. 

But it’s more than that. People with authentic confidence have a different foundation. They know their identity, and it is not tethered to what others think. While they might enjoy the praise of others and look forward to achieving their goals, their self-worth isn’t determined by any of those things.

Their life, their work, is based on something much greater. 

As someone who has found tremendous strength from my faith, I’ve recognized the value of placing my identity in something deeper than external accomplishments or the applause of a crowd. As a Christian I fundamentally believe that, whether I succeed or fail, God still loves me, and I find my ultimate identity in my relationship with Christ. And that gives me the foundation, the authentic confidence to attempt anything. 

Tale of Two Builders

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that he told a lot of stories. Sometimes it seems like that’s all he did. One of his best-known stories is about two home builders, and it’s also about creating authentic confidence. Like most of Jesus’ stories, there are a few interpretations. This version is my favorite.

The first builder begins the process of building the house by carefully looking for a strong foundation. He looks and finds solid rock, but it’s buried deep underneath a thick layer of sand. It’s going to take much more time and extra work to dig through the sand to get to the rock. Even then, he’ll still need to dig into the rock to begin construction. But this builder has some foresight. He decides the effort is worth it and starts digging. 

The second builder also begins by identifying the best spot for the home. He finds a spot, close to the first builder, that also has a thick layer of sandy topsoil. But he’s not convinced that he needs to dig a foundation as deep as his neighbor. He digs a foundation into the sand, but stops when he hits the rock.

Both homes are finished and, being in the same neighborhood, they both look incredible at street level. Both builders feel confident that they’ve done their best, and feel proud of what they’ve built. 

Years later, a massive storm hits the neighborhood. In the torrential downpour, rivers rise, the wind howls, and both homes take a beating. When the storm passes, one home is conspicuously untouched. The first builder emerges from his house and looks around at his neighborhood. Immediately he’s thankful that he made the extra effort to build the four corners of his house deep into the rock below. His house stood strong in the storm. But his neighbor’s home, with a shallow foundation, completely collapsed. 

That’s the nature of authentic confidence. It’s knowing that your foundation runs deeper than people understand. It’s knowing your most difficult seasons, your divorce, your diagnosis, your bankruptcy or your years of unemployment have given you the gift of resilience. It’s knowing you certainly didn’t enjoy the season of challenge, but you’re now enjoying the confidence that comes after it. It’s the feeling that, though storms may come and the rain may fall, you will not be knocked down. 

There aren't any shortcuts to authentic confidence. It takes some lumps and hard work to build resilience and inner steadiness. But it's worth it. Because authentic confidence is like living in a neighborhood full of houses built on sand, knowing yours is built on bedrock.