Leading with Confidence She was neither a pastor nor a pastor’s wife. She was not the head of any secular or Christian organisation. She was not known to have any great oratory skills nor a charismatic personality. Yet few will dispute that she was a leader in every sense of the word. All Rosa Parks did was refuse to stand up and surrender her seat to a white passenger when the demand was made of her. It was December 1955 and after a long day at her job as a seamstress in a department store, Rosa was tired of giving in to racist rules. With neither platform nor pulpit, her simple act of defiance led to what would become the greatest fight in America against racism led by Martin Luther King Jr and his co-activists.

I have had the privilege of meeting my fair share of leaders – both men and women. There have been those who were charismatic extroverts, there were the quiet introverts and of course those that were somewhere in between. Rich, poor, schooled or unschooled, one thing they had in common was this quality – confidence. This confidence was not just in who they were, but just as importantly, in what they had been called to accomplish.

Over the last couple of years I have developed a fascination for this concept of confidence. I am intrigued by its origin and how the workings of the human brain affect this quality. Without confidence a leader cannot inspire others to follow and while a literal platform is not necessary for leadership, a leader must have followers if their leadership is to be seen to be bona fide. The mark of a leader, whether they are good or bad leaders, is that they have followers. In my work as a Leadership and Business Coach I have coached clients who were lacking in confidence and who therefore believed that they could not do well in their leadership context. Without a doubt confidence or the lack of it seems to crop up quite often in people in leadership, especially women.

One of the questions I have tried to answer is this, ‘What does confidence look like?’ Not surprisingly, the question that follows on from this is, ‘Are we born with confidence, or can we acquire it like one acquires a skill?’ The consensus of opinion from research seems to suggest that the answer to the latter question is that it is a bit of both.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes confidence as ‘the feeling or belief that you can do something well or succeed at something’. It goes without saying that if you are to lead well, you must be confident in your ability to lead.

We have often equated confidence with outspokenness, brashness and yes, even arrogance. But it is none of these. A quiet, introverted leader can be just as confident as the effusive extrovert. True, some personalities appear to exude confidence more outwardly than others, but confidence is more about a state of the heart than it is an outward show of bravado. That said, the inward feeling of confidence is evidenced by the actions that follow and so action is important as evidence of inwardly felt confidence.

As Christian women leaders, our confidence comes from knowing that God has called us to lead regardless of what society or any particular individual might think. Therefore if the calling is unequivocally His, then along with the calling comes the equipping to fulfil that call. Personality, education or lack of it, a platform or the lack of it, become less of an issue. Instead our personalities, and therefore the way in which we lead, become merely outward coverings that enshroud the confidence on the inside.

My second question addresses the issue of nature or nurture with regards to confidence. While some personalities have a greater likelihood of showing confidence than others, a considerable part of confidence can be learned. Through personal development, practice, taking calculated risks and learning from failure, as well as dealing with unhelpful narratives that we allow ourselves to dwell on (again, this is more common in women), confidence can increase.

Many times, a perceived lack of confidence is due to the fact that you are spending more time dwelling on your weaknesses rather on your strengths. It would be more helpful to take a pragmatic approach, and either do something to improve yourself in those areas of weakness, or delegate that aspect to someone who is more skilled than you, while you focus on your areas of strength.

Contrary to what you may think, you don’t have to wait until you are perfect to step out and lead courageously. Perfectionism is a hazardous characteristic that is prevalent in women, owing in part to the way our brains are wired. But part of leading is learning on the job. Your followers do not expect perfect leaders. In fact they are encouraged when they observe the mistakes you make and the wisdom and humility with which you handle those mistakes. Vulnerability and transparency, when displayed appropriately, can be attractive qualities of good leaders. Last but not the least, you must not forget the empowerment that comes from the Anointed One Jesus, and His anointing on your life.

Leadership is a gift of the Holy Spirit, one that God Himself determines and endows as He wills, but the skills that enable one to lead confidently can and should be learned. Even those who are natural leaders need to develop and hone their skills in order to lead effectively. Time and time again, even in my own life, I have seen people develop great leadership skills and, in so doing, increase their capacity to lead well. All it takes is the willingness and humility to submit ourselves to the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, and the good mentors He places in our lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. On a scale of 1-10 (where 1 is ‘not confident’ and 10 is ‘extremely confident’), how confident are you in your leadership role?
  2. What stops you from leading more confidently than you are at the moment? Ask Holy Spirit to show you things in your life that might be eroding your confidence. Sometimes these things are not always readily evident but Holy Spirit can shine His light on those things.
  3. What would leading with more confidence look like for you in your leadership context?
  4. What areas do you feel you may need to develop yourself in?
  5. How are you going to go about increasing your confidence in these areas?

If you would like more on increasing your confidence, get my online course Secrets to Increased Confidence – a simple quick guide to becoming a confident woman.