Wisdom, vision, fearlessness--they're all qualities you'd expect in  a great leader. But according to a recent study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, confidence is the real key to leadership which gets people wanting to follow.

Researchers looked specifically at 106 creative leaders working for a large IT company to see how their behaviors affected the creativity levels of 544 people collectively working under them. They found that when leaders feel confident in their own creativity, their subordinates actually become more creative. It's because creative leaders typically have experience successfully coming up with good ideas. This track record fuels their confidence and positive thinking which underlings pick up and want to emulate.

Anyone can build confidence.

Confident people are more  successful because they seize opportunities and do things insecure people think of as scary (think public speaking). They're also perceived as more attractive and tend to have a larger circle of high-quality relationships.

Everyone wants all that, right? Good news: contrary to popular thinking, it's not a personality trait some people are born with and others are not. As the study's authors point out, experience succeeding at things is the key to becoming more confident.

You can take specific actions to be more self-confident.

According to a classic article published in Organizational Dynamics titled "Self-confidence and Leader Performance" written by George Hollenbeck and Douglas Hall, six exercises can help anyone build self-confidence.

1. Stretch yourself.

To gain experience succeeding at things, you need to actually try doing them. In other words, you're going to have to take some risks.

2. Break new situations apart into tasks you have done before.

If you find yourself unsure about how to handle a situation, certainly there are aspects of it with which you have experience. Go get the knowledge or skills relating to the areas you've never encountered.

3. Study confident people.

How do they project confidence without being cocky? Now look at yourself. How do you communicate confidence? Could you improve upon some of your habits?

4. Ask confident people how they got where they are.

Often, you'll hear about experiences which helped them develop this trait. It's a finding that underscores the idea that confidence is malleable. What things have happened in your life which have added to your list of successes but you may have overlooked?

5. Inventory your self-confidence.

No one is confident across all areas of life. In what realms are you most confident? Where are you less sure of yourself? What can you be doing to bolster your confidence in the areas you are weak?

6. Assess your experiences.

Review your life to determine the sources of self-confidence which have affected you. Have you had role models in this area, or people who believed in you? What have been the situations in which you've felt most confident? How can you use what you've learned today?

Published on: Jul 13, 2016
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