Self-Confidence: Four Common Myths

Being self-assured and confident is a vital ingredient of success for individual contributors and business leaders alike.

Self-confident professionals believe wholeheartedly in their ideas and plans, which allows them to manage any criticism they encounter with grace.

In a business setting, it is quite likely that new ideas and fresh proposals will be challenged by colleagues and upper-level management; self-confidence allows people to take these challenges in stride and assertively and respectfully argue their points.

There is never a perfect path forward. In order to be able to execute on their leadership objectives, leaders need to have courageous conversations and confront the concerns, resistance, and objections of others in a constructive and confident way.

People are reluctant to follow leaders who are doubtful, show signs of false confidence, or second-guess their proposals and plans. Being an opinion leader or change agent in the organization, then, requires that you have a high level of self-confidence. If you want the reputation of being a leader who is willing to take on a challenging assignment or tackle a risky project and win, you will need to trust your experience and instincts.

Likewise, if you want to make a difference and have your influence felt in the organization, you will need to show initiative and the confidence needed to move your vision or agenda forward. This does not mean that as a leader, you should be prideful, self-centered, or egotistical, however.

Healthy self-confidence means that you believe in your ideas, but that you are also mature and responsible enough to own your flaws; when your calculations are off or you make a mistake, you’re the first to admit your failings.

There are four common complaints related to self-confidence, but we think they’re myths and have little merit. In response to these arguments, we offer an alternative way of thinking about each one:

Myth 1Self-confident people are pushy and aggressive.

Alternative View:  People who are self-confident (leaders and non-leaders alike) are direct, open, and honest.  Their intention is always to increase transparency and convey their ideas accurately when expressing their point of view.

Myth 2 Self-confident people turn others off and lose approval.

Alternative View:  The vast majority of people prefer to work with leaders who are straightforward, rational, and who speak the truth.

Myth 3Self-confident people have to be perfect and precise, always.

Alternative View:  Everyone makes mistakes on occasion.  If you wait until you have every piece of information and utterly flawless solutions to present, the organization will suffer.  Many times, confident leaders have to trust their experience and knowledge, proceed forward with partial information, and take smart risks.

Myth 4Self-confident people have to get exactly what they want.

Alternative View:  Self-confident people can, and often do make compromises.  Rarely do people end up with everything they want out of their proposed solution. Confident people do not feel like they have lost anything if the situation requires them to explore alternative options with others.

In a complex business environment, there will be times when individuals will need to take a stand—regardless of their position in the organization. People can’t afford to shy away from candidly and confidently expressing their points of view to others, whether they’re in formal positions of leadership within the organization or not.

When challenges or controversies arise within the organization, people can’t be distracted by seeking approval, playing political games, or avoiding the discomfort of conflict. They know that their ideas are worth fighting for, and they have the courage to confidently stand their ground.

And even those outside of the organization proper—such as its customers and external stakeholders—need to be able to rely on their business associates to be open and candid with them. There is simply no other way to maintain productive and sustainable business relationships. Clearly, the importance of expressing your views assertively and with self-confidence can’t be understated—and we know it will make a positive impact throughout the organization and beyond.

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About the Author

Steven Stowell, Ph.D.

Dr. Steven J. Stowell is the Founder and President of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc. CMOE was created in 1978 for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and create strategic competitiveness. Steve’s special interests lie in helping leaders and organizations transform into high-performance cultures that are focused on long-term, sustained growth. Steve began his career working in the energy industry. During the past 30 years, Steve has consulted with both small and large corporations, government agencies, school systems, and non-profit organizations in 35 different countries. Steve enjoys the challenges of • Helping functional organizations define, create, and execute strategy in order to differentiate the business. • Developing and designing creative and innovative learning experiences, simulations, and keynote presentations. • Helping functions across the organization be more effective and aligned in executing long-term plans. The centerpiece of Steve’s consulting, learning, and executive coaching work is his advocacy of applied research and data collection. Steve is a highly effective presenter and facilitator and enjoys creating customized solutions, assisting senior teams, defining strategic direction from the individual level to the corporate and business-unit level, and improving teams that are faced with important challenges and issues.