Lack of confidence can have detrimental effects, especially when moving to a management role, but what can you do? You take advice from elite soldiers.
When applying for jobs, many people will disregard life experiences they deem irrelevant to the field or industry they are trying to enter. This is a huge mistake, because no matter how disparate an experience might seem to the skill set your job requires, some skills are universal. Although military service might seem inapplicable as experience when applying for jobs in the corporate world, there are some lessons it can teach you.
Brent Gleeson, Leadership Coach and former Navy Seal, talks about a simple yet powerful set of techniques which will help you project the confidence necessary to be an effective leader, an undeniably pertinent skill in the corporate sphere. These “tricks” are abbreviated to B.A.S.E. as a mnemonic device. Let’s take a look.
Most us already know that “power poses” - poses which exude confidence and power - can have a biological effect beyond the explicit psychological effects of increasing confidence and improving your mood. Apart from those personal effects, body language can also inform and psychologically prime the people you are speaking to. Not only can posture or pose have a profound effect as to how a person perceives you, but it can also have an effect on how much of what you are saying they retain, which I doubt I have to justify is an important ability for any leader. In practical terms Brent Gleeson says that no matter what environment you find yourself in, be it a professional or casual one, when you are leading or networking, standing up straight and keeping your hands out of your pockets, will show the person you are interacting with that you are engaging, confident and assertive.
Never fold your arms, especially during a friendly interaction as it can be interpreted as being cold, distant and closed off. Of course, all rules have exceptions and folding your arms has been shown to increase cognitive function when completing mental tasks. Something Gleeson mentions that many other sources ignore is physical condition. Exercise can have enormous benefits to posture, mentality and confidence. You will also help keep your energy levels high which helps engagement with the person or people you are speaking to. Finally and most obvious is making eye contact. This is more of a nuanced body language as too much eye-contact can become uncomfortable, too little can be perceived as being nervous, self-conscious and worst of all especially during a business or professional interaction: dishonest.
Effective body language “habits” or behaviours might not be easy to develop, but the effects are more or less immediate. Authority, on the other hand, takes much longer to obtain, it needs to be built and developed through positive leadership and mutual respect. This respect that will in turn give you the authority to lead is multifaceted: it’s a combination of knowledge, experience, ethics, morality and most importantly trust. It also comes from confidence, not in yourself but the confidence others have in you, which is more a matter of policy and corporate strategy.
If the people you work with believe that you can guide the company, or the team to accomplish goals, or missions to follow the relevant military jargon, then they will follow you as a competent leader. But, if you and your policies show a tendency to promote personal interest, are inconsistent and repeatedly fail to yield results, then you will lose people valuable to your organization. To make the military analogy, soldiers will blindly follow a leader they believe will fight alongside them, not try to save his/her own life, far away from the front line. Remember, though, authority and its most important ingredient: trust, need time to develop, do not expect your employees to follow your leadership without first proving yourself.
Statistics show that a huge factor in job satisfaction is transparency. The reason is that transparency gives employees the feeling that they have a say in the policies and decisions that affect them and their workplace. Being sincere with your team members, especially during times of crisis, will help establish the trust which as mentioned above will help with authority. Although not a rule, it could also cultivate an environment of honesty between you and the employees.
Having been an employee myself, I believe this is one of the most important components of effective leadership or when transitioning into management. If you act as an individual, eventually this will create discontent, disengaged employees and will inevitably lead to the loss of valuable team members. Being empathic will also make you a dynamic decision maker, by being able to put yourself into a subordinate's or client’s proverbial shoes, you will be able to understand their motivations or their points of contention, allowing you to adapt your strategy accordingly.
Having a personal relationship, beyond the professional one with your staff, can help you become a much more effective leader, as each person is motivated by different things. Unfortunately, empathetic leadership has been falsely associated with being too lenient, and often leaders feel that ruling with an iron fist is just a caveat of being a manager. Empathy is another characteristic of leadership that will help further develop trust amongst you and your staff.
So, body language, authority, sincerity and empathy can help you gain the confidence to lead and the tools to have people trust in you and follow your leadership. Of course, these aren’t the only components of leadership and confidence, but they are a solid foundation to start from. Developing confidence also has to do with your how comfortable you are in your leadership role. As you mature in your role, you will also start becoming more comfortable with your duties, responsibilities and official function. With experience, you will also learn easy ways to deal with damage control and avert crisis within a shorter timeframe.
Confidence as a leader can be a complex set of both professional and interpersonal skills. It requires years of honing and modifying methods to deal with both staff and superiors, learning to communicate effectively and being able to problem solve rapidly. Both these soft and practical skill can’t be learned exclusively at business school but are the accumulation of multiple years of work and diverse experience. It can seem like a daunting feat when first transitioning from staff to management but with the right skills, you can learn how to become an effective leader.
Have you successfully transitioned from staff to a leadership role? Let us know in the comment section below.