One of the most important actions that executive leaders should be undertaking, especially during the corona virus pandemic, is targeting managers to re-establish their self-confidence. COVID-19 has pulled the rug out from under their feet and most managers, too, are feeling fragile, insecure and unsure. These feelings of insecurity don’t augur well for innovation, creativity, risk-taking and ultimately business growth, so steps need to be taken to regenerate a sense of purpose, value and contribution in managers.

We’ve all had them – managers that ooze a lack of confidence in their leadership efforts. The subsequent effects of this lack of confidence could be some or more of the following issues:

  • A difficulty in acknowledging good work in others
  • A tendency to take all the credit for good results
  • Not sharing mission-critical information
  • Micro-managing
  • Criticising other managers
  • Overly justifying actions or decisions
  • Indecisiveness
  • Arrogance

The above list destroys team cohesiveness and engenders insecurity and a lack of trust. Managerial self-confidence, however, establishes the platform for focused hard work and the possibility of team performance. John Baldoni (in Harvard Business Review) notes: “When it comes to leadership in the workplace, the primal spring of self-confidence is an understanding of what you have accomplished and what you feel you can do next”. He goes on to suggest that this is not just “happy talk”, but rather an identification of the strengths that make up the authentic you. It suggests that you have done the hard work of digging deep internally to find answers to three things:

  1. What do you do well? Self-discovery here enables you to itemise the strengths and abilities that have brought you success to date and to focus on developing these skills even further.
  2. Why should people follow you? Two things need your focus here – your character and your competence. You need to be in a position of trustworthiness on both accounts – your integrity, consistency and honesty need to be totally unquestionable (character) and your leadership skills, communication excellence and technical understanding should be reliable (competence).
  3. What have you done to earn the trust of others? This question talks to the desirable quality of “followership”. Followership is gained through appropriate behaviour – being accountable for when things go right or wrong; taking the lead on a difficult assignment that no-one else wanted to handle; defusing conflict respectfully; standing up for the team; upholding the dignity of the human being, etc.

Executive leadership and other senior leaders should focus on re-establishing self-confidence in their managers. Self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behaviour in people’s everyday lives and thus impacts levels of performance significantly. In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that one’s perception of ability or self-confidence is the central mediating construct of achievement strivings (e.g., Bandura, 1977; Ericsson et al., 1993; Harter, 1978; Kuhl, 1992; Nicholls, 1984). Leaders should therefore get involved with helping managers judge their own capabilities for goal accomplishment accurately.

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