It is so interesting to see how cultures and values shape our personalities and choices. I was reading this article and I found myself getting angry about the encouragement around “faking confidence” which is positioned as better than being modest.

I faked confidence myself many times, sometimes you need to do that. Sometimes you fall short in a situation in which you cannot show vulnerability, I get that. But I don’t think of it as a sustainable strategy. Is it a call for you to go back and pull your s*it together and build your confidence back.

However, somewhere in the article it is positioned as a secret formula in reference to a research finding: “This found that projecting confidence does lead to positive effects, but only when it is non-comparative. In other words: praising your competence seems to be fine as long as you do not claim that others are incompetent.”

If you do not read the research, you’d think – no matter how incompetent I am I should claim the opposite, but not compare myself with more competent people… The research is all about how people tend to trust and believe in the students who show confidence and say, “I’ll score high at the exam” no matter what the outcome is. So people assume that students who expect high scores from the exams are likely to be more competent than people who expect low. And they don’t like people being arrogant and greedy by saying “I will score better than my friends”.

How come this make ‘fake confidence’ better than modesty? You don’t need to be loud and proud about your success expectations from your own self, do you?

Anyways, this article made me think. I thought about which one is more critical to hold on to: competence or confidence… And then I put a third element into this formula: awareness.

I have no researches to prove my point, no data to support but here is how I think:

In leadership, I think that these qualities are binary, you either have them or not… And the combinations of these qualities define your leadership style. You are not supposed to fulfil all three but you have to be good at least in one. You cannot suck in all and expect to be a good leader. You can definitely be a leader, maybe even successful but not a good one.

So here are the types’ explanations according to me:

Type A leaders know which capabilities and skills they are missing and they are in peace with that. They are open to learn and develop themselves. Their confidence makes it easier for them to work with competent people and have minimum frictions but mutual respect.

Type B leaders are competent and they are aware of their strengths. However they are open to opposing ideas, debates and even conflicts. They are not threatened by other people’s confidence as long as they know what they are saying/doing. On contrary, they give their people the best support once they are convinced with their thinking.

Type Cs, are both competent and confident in their own qualities. They are usually treated as geniuses since they are not that easy to interpret. They may lack internal and/or external awareness (see this) which will impact their communication skills. They may have many traits that can make them harder to work with; temper, impatience, perfectionism…

Type D leaders are great observers, they neither fake competence not confidence. They make good coaches and fair managers. They empower the right talents to shine, drive success, develop themselves. They know that they can get as successful as their people can.

Type E leaders are great public speakers with lots of confidence. However when it comes to business discussions they may fail to listen and eventually may not always make a good judgement. Their success may not be sustainable if they lack the awareness to build on their skills and competence in time.

Type F leaders are very capable in their area of expertise and therefore respected by everyone. They are perceived to be more modest since they are not well aware of their strength and own them in public that often.

So there is no types with full competence, confidence and awareness? Because I couldn’t find an example that these three qualities can live strongly together in symbiosis for a long time. It is very hard to keep them strong at all times:

  1. You have to keep building your skills, competence is a moving target
  2. You need to be with people and work closely with them not to lose your external awareness quality
  3. You have to be strong, so strong to keep going at all times

The strategy I’d recommend instead of faking anything is choosing one of these and be mindful about it.

If awareness is your strongest, then you should always pay attention to observation and listening, spare time for that. If confidence is your strongest, then you have to remind yourself everyday not to get arrogant and ignorant. The best to do it to keep capable people close to you and trust their judgements. And if competence is your strongest, keeping raising your bar higher and higher…

I also didn’t want to go to negative types with fake confidence, missing capabilities and total ignorance. In fact they may be the most common group of leaders that usually exist around us. But I just want them to be away from us…. And breed among each other, call their offsprings Donalds and eventually become extinct. I really wish so.

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