Confidence is almost universally viewed as a real strength. It allows people to try things in their personal and professional lives that they would not otherwise try. Confidence is a critical attribute in leaders. The ability to make informed decisions and not second guess the decision to move forward. Yes, confidence is a great personality trait to have.
Confidence can also be the enemy. Sounds crazy, I know, especially after the first paragraph. But confidence can get in the way of making the right decision and doing the right thing. Many leaders are so confident in their experience and ability to make sound judgments, that they quit listening to alternative ideas. Frankly, it’s hard to give up what you know has been successful and a cornerstone of your rapid rise up the ranks of corporate America. There in lies the problem. All too often, leaders put on the ruse of “listening” to feedback from subordinates or outside interests. Their mind already made up, they politely (sometimes impolitely) listen and take things “under advisement”, which is code for “your ideas aren’t going any further”. This is a problem on several levels.
Turning a deaf ear to those subordinates that you have empowered to help run your business sends a message that you do not value their input. Why would you dismiss the input of a leader that you put in charge of running your business? Believing that only you have the right answers is a dangerous mindset. It undermines long term success at every turn. In fairness, taking feedback from your team means that you have to give up a little bit of yourself. You have to admit that you do not have all of the answers. You are exposing a vulnerable side of yourself to your team. For marginally confident leaders, this is a problem. But doing so, will actually win you more respect from your team.
With every team that I have led, I empowered those that I hired (or even inherited) to run their businesses. After all, I thought those folks were great when I hired them in the first place. Why would I think otherwise once they were on the payroll? Many times, I had conversations with my team and they wanted to go a direction that I wasn’t confident in. Each time, I challenged their thinking and thought process, to see how well developed the idea/strategy was, and also to check their passion for the strategy. Every time, I said to them, “Do what you feel is best. After all, I pay you to run your business.” As you might imagine sometimes they were wrong and sometimes I was wrong. Every time, though, we learned and we all got better. That alone was worth the trust that I placed in my team. Our team got stronger and we achieved results that were well above industry average. And there was a chemistry between my managers and me and a real camaraderie among the management group which filtered down into the larger organization.
Confidence can become the enemy when you begin to believe your own B.S. Maintaining the proper humility and keeping an open mind can help leaders avoid this trap. Leaders sometimes forget that they were once in the same position that their team is in. They were young and wanted to be heard. Your leadership team today is no different in their desire to be heard.
Will you let supreme confidence become the enemy to progress? Or will you have the confidence to share leadership with those that have earned the right and want the same things that you do? The answer is simple if you are confident enough to see it.