By Beverly D. Flaxington, Special for US Daily Review.
The Encarta World Dictionary says that confidence is the “faith in somebody to do right: belief or trust in somebody or something, or in the ability of somebody or something to act in a proper, trustworthy, or reliable manner.”
In today’s struggling economy, many people have lost their faith in our leaders “to do right.” We often can’t state with certainty that we have belief or trust in their ability “to act in a proper, trustworthy and reliable way.” The problem with this eroded confidence is that it often leaves us feeling at a loss as to what to hold on to, what to believe in, and how to move forward in our own individual lives. The function of any leader is to set a course, guide the path and instill a creative vision. When done well, followers can see clearly how they all come together to reach the collective goal.
Today’s leaders – in the form of our government officials and our corporate executives – face a challenge that has never been faced before, given our economic times and general feelings of uncertainty. But within challenge also lies opportunity. These leaders have the chance to take steps to restore confidence and get our country, our companies and our people back on track. There are five key steps for any leader to take to instill confidence in their followers:
- A leader must be able to set – and state – a clear and understandable desired outcome for their followers. They must articulate where the collective body is headed, and be able to clearly outline the steps they believe need to be taken to achieve success.
- A leader must be able to pull together their constituents and show each individual, group or team what their specific role is in achieving the desired outcome. They must be able to show followers where each one fits, and what their contribution can be for the entire unit to be successful.
- A leader must be willing to be self-reflective. Healthy ego is imperative for a leader, but in many cases today that ego has crossed the line to narcissism. A true leader is willing to examine their strengths and, at the same time, acknowledge their areas for improvement. A leader looks for others to fill a gap in expertise and experience that they may not have, and they embrace and welcome the complement.
- A leader doesn’t assume anything. They cannot assume that they will be given respect because of their role. They cannot assume that their followers respect their authority. They cannot assume that their followers know where they are headed. It is incumbent on the leader to communicate consistently, effectively and clearly, and to be sure that the communication is received – and understood.
- The followers of a great leader are happy to participate, and want to be a part of something bigger than they are. A successful leader doesn’t tell their constituents why the leader is so special, or should be followed. They inspire the followers to want to be a part of the solution – or the direction. A leader doesn’t belittle or bring down others; they lift up the body as a whole and help constituents to feel they are lucky to participate in the leader’s vision.
Sadly, too many leaders today depend on a “trust me” approach. They expect their employees, staff or constituents to just believe in them by virtue of the leadership role they hold. Today, more than ever, people can’t “trust” without veracity that the trust is well placed. Most people want to believe, but actions are speaking much louder than the words any given leader can say. At one point, we believed that if someone rose to a level of authority they “must know” what they were doing, and must be smart and deserving of confidence. Now we know that the position doesn’t guarantee the respect is deserved. Many leaders have stolen the people’s trust and must work very hard to gain it back before they can be effective.
The leader that turns confidence into a tool for greater effectiveness will rise to the top of today’s proverbial pack. People are hungry for someone – or something – to believe in. Most people want to be a part of something bigger than they are, but the vision has to be clear before they can willingly commit.
A leader who can articulate a clear vision, create a step-by-step and understandable path to reach that vision, and show constituents where they fit on the path and what they can individually do to participate will have an advantage. Another often overlooked piece is to understand the obstacles but not get distracted by them. Strong leaders find a way to use the obstacles to move forward and create a workable plan. Instead of spending energy fighting over who is wrong, or wishing something were different, a strong leader identifies what they can control or what they can influence and leaves behind those issues out of their control. They create plans for change that allow for leveraging of strengths and overcoming of identified obstacles. They don’t pretend that problems don’t exist, but rather they bring the problems to light – in order to eradicate them entirely.
Today’s leaders have a golden opportunity to take steps to create a community of followers who want to be a part of something bigger. Who are the people who will emerge as these leaders and gain our confidence? We all wait patiently to see.
Beverly D. Flaxington is an accomplished consultant, hypnotherapist, personal and career coach, author, college professor, corporate trainer, facilitator, behavioral expert, entrepreneur and business development expert. Bev co-founded The Collaborative in 1995, a sales and marketing consultancy.