by Jim Bruce
In my reading this week, I found this short piece by John Baldoni. In it he talks about the foundational importance of importance and suggests that you can nurture it by “inviting them to look up,” by “letting them see you sweat,” by “learning from your mistakes,” and by “radiating hope.”
Weigh In: A Matter of Confidence
Leaders gotta have it… but it must go beyond swagger, according to columnist John Baldoni.
This crucial leadership trait involves more subtleties than swagger.
By John Baldoni
Now they are being hailed as the first sports dynasty of the 21st
century. That’s what happens when you win three Super Bowls in four
years, the first of which came in January 2002, a few short months
after September 11. It somehow seemed appropriate then that the
winning team was named the Patriots and they hailed from New England.
It may be a stretch to liken a professional football team to our
nation’s revolutionaries but there is one parallel that is
unmistakable. Both embody the aspirations of our era; both embody
what we want to be. America’s first patriots were steely, scrappy and
tenacious; they made do with what they had, not what they wished they
had. Our football Patriots, under the direction of coach Bill
Belichick, are equally resourceful, with defensive players joining
the offense and offensive players playing defense. Injuries do not
hold them back; they push them forward. The net result of this
attitude is something that our Founding Fathers certainly had and
winning teams always have. It’s called confidence.
You Gotta Have It
Using that word as the title of her new book, Harvard professor
Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes, “Confidence is the bridge connecting
expectations and performance, investments and results.” Winning
organizations have it in spades; losing teams cannot seem to spell
it. Yet, as Kanter points out, confidence is necessary for success.
Why? Because confidence is that inner fire that says we can do it if
we try. It also is that inner voice that knows when to ask for help.
For example, Michael Jordan did not win a championship without a
smart coach and a savvy supporting team. Fred Smith did not build the
world’s most successful air freight system without a superior team of
logisticians and dedicated pilots. Confidence is knowledge of one’s
own strengths as well as one’s own limitations. In other words you
need to know when to say when you can go it alone or call in for
reinforcements. As such it is a valuable leadership trait. Here are
some ways to nurture it.
Invite them to look up. Leadership by nature is aspirational. It must
inspire people to want to achieve. Leaders play their part by setting
goals and inviting others to add to those goals. For example, a sales
manager may set a goal of achieving one million dollars in new sales
per month. A turned-on sales team will take that as a challenge and
strive to bring in another $100,000 in new monthly business. When
they do they feel good about themselves and want to keep on
achieving. In sales we call it the “swagger.” A sales team without
swagger is like a ship without a rudder, drifting on a sea of apathy.
Let them see you sweat. Yes, this is the reverse of the Broadway
adage. But we’re not talking acting; we’re taking real life.
Confidence comes from working the details, being willing to be part
of the team and sharing the burdens with them. It is honed by
discipline and attentiveness. This is not micromanagement; it’s
sharing of burdens. And when things turn around, and goals are met,
it’s a sharing of glory earned by the sweat of the collective brow.
Learn from your mistakes. John Madden, America’s leading football
analyst, has said, “Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to
see and listen for what they don’t want to hear.” What Madden means
is that it is human nature to avoid confronting mistakes, especially
if the mistakes are being committed by people for whom you are
responsible. This is folly. Mistakes are learning opportunities.
Capitalize on them as learning lessons. When you correct them
properly, you will likely not repeat them. And that has to inspire a
degree of confidence.
Radiate hope. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for the cause
of African nationalism in South Africa. Throughout those long years
of deprivation without family he did not lose hope in the
righteousness of his cause. In her book, Kanter cites Mandela as a
model of confidence. Mandela embodied the hope of his nation, first
to his followers inside prison and then outside of it. He showed just
how hopeful he was when he became president of the new South Africa;
he did not seek retribution but rather reconciliation, which in the
long run was the only way to avoid bloodshed and to integrate
economic, political and global resources. By doing so, he provided
hope for all people of South Africa.
A Key Difference Maker
Of course you can be too confident. For example, after the
devastation of the Great War, the French built the Maginot Line, a
fortified wall of concrete and armaments designed to keep the Germans
from ever attacking again. The French government put its faith in the
wall; the Nazis ignored it, entering France through the Low
Countries. The Nazis too had their own margin of defense, the
Siegfried Line, which of course the Allies blew through via air,
artillery and tank power. Overconfidence prevents companies from
seeing the dangers lurking over the corporate parking lot; these may
include anything from a changing market to a new competitor or a
Nonetheless, confidence is essential to leadership. A leader without
confidence can neither guide nor inspire; she can only sit in the
shadows while others carry the load. Confidence is a unifier that
brings people together because it feeds upon their collective
energies. Confident organizations are those that do succeed because
they draw upon the strengths of their leaders and followers pulling
together for common cause. A genuinely confident leader is one who
knows herself, her people, and her abilities to move an organization
forward to achieve their goals. And that’s something about which both
our Founding Fathers and the New England Patriots would agree.