Leaders are risk-takers. You can’t make changes or achieve your Vision unless you take risks. But risks imply the possibility of failure. (Did you get a sinking feeling in your stomach?) In order to take on the challenge of stepping out of our comfort zones and taking risks, we need to build our confidence. As with learning anything new, it starts with baby step. Just like exercising, the hardest step is lacing up your sneakers—or in this case, determining to build your confidence and take risks.

In Build Confidence in Yourself and Your Leadership, Gregg Vanourek lists the various benefits of confidence (including improving health and boosting attractiveness and creativity!) and goes on to list these steps for developing self-confidence:

Focus more on areas of our capability and achievement, and less on areas of weakness and struggle—What are you good at? You may be crafty and/or have artistic ability. Use it to decorate a wall outside the library to call attention to it. Do you write well? Try a newsletter. Are you great at tech? Offer an after-school teach-in on a new resource for students or staff.

Set and meet goals that lead to personal and professional accomplishments– If you have big goals (and most of us do), look for the small ones that will get you there. You don’t have to conquer the world on your first forays. Look at your Mission and Vision. What small goal can showcase your Mission and/or get you closer to your Vision?

Switch off negative self-talk, self-criticism, and limiting beliefs—More than any actual circumstance, this is what stops us most of the time. We judge ourselves much more harshly than we would anyone else. Noticing this negative inner dialogue can help us take risks and build confidence.

Swap in positive thoughts for negative ones—Once you’ve taken steps to switch off the negative self-talk, go one step further by talking to yourself as though you were speaking to a friend. Look to previous successes, positive feedback, and glowing responses.

Face our fears and, in the process, build a sense of agency and capability–What is the worst that can go wrong? Whatever you think that might be, you will recover, learn, and be wiser the next time. You can use the experience to bolster your creativity.

Stop the unhealthy practice of comparing ourselves to othersNever compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. Typically, we focus on their strengths and don’t notice that, like you, they have weaknesses, too. (And you never know when they may see your strengths and compare themselves to you.)

Continue learning, growing, developing, and building new capacities—Work on areas of weaknesses, but also build your strengths. Our world and our profession are constantly evolving. Grow with it.

Engage in consistent self-care practicesYou can’t feel confident if you feel drained and exhausted. Make yourself a priority. You have heard this before. Knowing that increased confidence is a byproduct may make you more willing to take care of yourself.

Speak up for ourselves (self-advocacy)—This can be challenging, but it’s a necessary part of leadership. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s for your program. Look for ways to showcase and promote it to as wide an audience as you can.

Stop thinking in terms of fixed traits (e.g., “I’ve always been bad at math” or “I’m not a confident person”)—Have you ever thought “I am not a leader”? Let go of this belief. You are if you are willing to be. And your students, teachers, and program need you to be a leader.

Think about a time when we felt high confidence and ask how we’d act if we were feeling that way now—You have been successful in the past. How did you feel? You are still that person. Tap into that feeling, remember that energy, and use it going forward.

We know that failure is part of the learning process. We teach that to our students. Yet, when it comes to our own behaviors, we stop short. All we see is the possibility (probability) of making mistakes. Confidence is a combination of mindset and efficacy–the knowledge that you have the ability and the resources needed to complete a task or goal. Have confidence in your knowledge and resources and go for your goals!

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