Confidence is a grounding leadership quality. It makes it easier to take risks, speak before groups, ask for help, and develop a vision. What makes the title question difficult to answer is while you may be confident in how you do your job, once you consider leadership, all that confidence melts away.
How can you build the confidence necessary to become the leader your students and teachers need you to be? You can start by employing some of the skills I have talked about in other contexts. The first is having a positive attitude. Pessimists and nay-sayers are not confident. They retreat by pointing to why something won’t work or why things are bad and getting worse. If it won’t work and everything is going downhill, there is no sense in doing anything differently.
Leaders don’t think that way. No one follows a pessimist. They may join in as justification for their own attitude but that’s not following. Change your mindset and it will change your perspective. Look for the “chopportunity” or the positive challenge that can be found in almost every negative. For example:
- Losing staff? Look for ways to enlist student help (and if you are in an elementary school you may be able to get high school students to help as part of their community service). Identify what jobs could be eliminated and discuss with your principal. In the process you will be expanding his/her understanding of all you do. And he/she might come up with another suggestion.
- New administrator who doesn’t see value of librarians? Use highly visual resources such as Piktochart to create reports featuring students at work and to make infographics. Invite your administrator to see a project you created with a teacher. Depending on the end product, you might see if one or more of the students’ work can be displayed in his/her office.
- Heavy emphasis on STEM minimizing library use? Incorporate the many STEM-based programs into the library. For example, connect a Makerspace to books and a research project.
Start a personal “Success Journal.” Keep a small notebook at your desk. Record each personal success. Jot down when you get thanks from a teacher or student. Note when students show they really got a particular lesson or loved the book you recommended. Once you start doing this you will be amazed at how many times you are successful during the day.
Back in September, I wrote a blog on Dress for Success. It suggested that if you dressed more like an administrator you were more likely to be treated like an administrator. Dress also can build your confidence. When you feel that you look good, your mindset shifts and you feel more confident.
You will also boost your confidence if you keep up with the latest ideas in school libraries and in education Be on the Facebook pages that will help. Read articles in education journals such as Educational Leadership. Just seeing what the monthly themes are will give you a clue. Being on state and national committees will do even more to keep you abreast of trends. This keeps you ahead of the curve which will do much for your confidence.
Being informed in your field will also help you speak confidently. Your ability to do so reinforces your growing confidence. Do be mindful as to whether you have picked up the habit of raising your voice at the end of a sentence as though you were asking a question instead of making a statement. It makes you sound less sure of yourself, and mentally you pick up on that as well.
Another tool is to learn to have a welcoming smile. “Smile and the world smiles with you” sounds trite, but there is truth to it. People respond positively to a smile, and that, in turn, makes you feel more confident. Let people see your engaged attitude.
Confidence is also linked to self-esteem. Self-esteem is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” Note the words “oneself” and “satisfaction.” It means, on the whole, you like the person you are—and you’re not waiting to like yourself until you become perfect. You’ll be waiting a long time on that one.
People in high self-esteem accept that they make mistakes and have bad days. They don’t let those things change how they view themselves. Although some may see confidence as a synonym for self-esteem, it seems to me that it’s more that the two terms reinforce each other. If you are in high self-esteem you exude confidence. If you are confident in what you do and how you do it, you develop high self-esteem.
So how confident are you? Do you regard confidence as a leadership quality? How are you building your confidence?