Authenticity: 7 Ways to Navigate Self-Doubt
Developing skills – when you’re empty on the inside – destroys you, especially if you succeed.
Empty leaders lose themselves to skills, methods, and strategies.
Teach how to be, before teaching what to do.
Arrogance relies on methods. Humility relies on people.
Navigating self-doubt is essential to successful leadership. Self-doubt invites leaders to put too much trust in methods, strategies, and skills.
People, not methods, are the answer.
Navigating self-doubt in others:
- Provide time for self-reflection. Helping others reflect is a gift to those consumed with doing.
- Ask, “Who do you want to be?”
- Define who to be in behavioral terms. What behaviors best reflect who you aspire to be?
- Illuminate the connection between aspiration and behavior. “You want to be open. When you cross your arms you look closed.”
- Allow time for struggle, failure, and recovery. Don’t rush to help.
- See strengths in them that they don’t see in themselves.
- Providing opportunities to deliver results.
Some leaders have too much self-doubt; others have too little.
If you’re working with leaders who don’t have self-doubt, teach them how to have it.
Always doubt leaders who never doubt themselves.
Self-doubt is an ally, not an enemy, as long as it doesn’t hobble or paralyze.
Leaders without self-doubt:
- Minimize challenges and obstacles.
- Underestimate the demands of success.
- Make short-sighted decisions.
- Blame others when things go wrong.
The solution to self-doubt is listening to it while pressing through it.
- Don’t go with the first answer or solution.
- Ask, “What if I’m wrong?”
- Develop contingency plans.
- Go with their gut not yours, when it’s their area of expertise.
- Invite teams to question your ideas.
- Ask, “Why won’t this work?”
- Ask, “If I fail, what will I not have done?”
The path to authentic leadership includes navigating self-doubt.
What are the downsides of self-doubt?
How can leaders leverage self-doubt?
I definitely need this today! Thanks
Thanks Roy. Go gettem! 🙂
Thanks … great timing for me. I spend a lot of time planning, learning, strategizing … maybe today is about reflecting, shifting thinking patterns and seeking out new perspectives … well said Dan.
Thanks ckmic. I respect your transparency. Best for the journey.
Most of the organisation leaders suffer from ” I know it” syndrome. When people approach them with their issues, or want to say something, leaders tend to say, I know it. Even before you complete your sentence, they say, I know it. This is one symptom that make them ignorant. They stop learning and think that they know everything. Anyone giving new ideas, or suggestion is not useful for them. They try to impose their ideas, as they think, they know better than anyone else. This kind of attitude hobbles creativity and innovation in the system. When people do not go along with them, they try to show their power. And they create unhealthy culture to work. They are inauthentic leaders.
When leaders listen, adapt and self doubt, they become authentic leaders. They encourage ideas, suggestion and hence create work environment better. Every one learns in such organisations. People can learn to self-doubt by questioning self-belief and knowledge. One should understand that knowledge is not absolute but keeps on changing from time to time. So, one should be willing to accept that there might be many people who know better than you. This kind of thinking, feeling and attitude can make any person a great person and authentic leader.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Love the expression, “I know it” syndrome. One reason it’s a challenge is people in some organizations expect leaders to “know it.” It takes courage to not know.
I can see that you see the connection between self-doubt and authenticity. I’ll go so far as to say that those who don’t doubt themselves lack authenticity.
Thanks Dan!- Your post rings true. Reading it, made me think about leadership as a collaborative process of navigating the balance between knowing and discovering. Have a great day! Lori
Thanks Lori. I appreciate your observation about the balance between knowing and discovering. It feels like a tension to me. When I know too much, I stop discovering. Bingo
In his recent book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” venture capitalist Ben Horowitz says that if CEOs were graded on a curve “the mean on the test would be 22 out of 100.” He says that’s tough to accept for a driven person who likes to think of him or herself as a high achiever. It’s especially challenging, he says, “because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.”
Given this the only proper state for the leader is one of self-doubt because there is a 78 percent chance they might be wrong – and a 100 percent chance that the easy answer is probably the wrong answer.
Thanks Joe. You have a way with words. “There is a 78% chance they might be wrong…” That should sober all of us. 🙂
“100% chance the easy answer is probably wrong,” made me smile. Love it.
What are your thoughts on how different cultures can impact confidence? I feel I have a good balance of self-doubt, but when working with certain leaders at work, the cultural difference can be overwhelming and lead to excess self-doubt.
I notice this happens not only to me, but also to the rest of my team.
Thanks guoddoug. Interesting question. It looks like you are referring to organizational culture. I started thinking about situations where leaders believe that everyone has to be confident all the time. They are never wrong. And when they are wrong, they can’t admit it.
I believer the environments we create can invite others to have too much or too little self-doubt.
What do you think?
Dan thank you for the quick response. I wanted to think about how I manage my self-doubt and how I lead as an individual. Even though I am not a manager, I feel my ability to impact my organization is by being an inclusive leader. So, this may be a bit of a tangent, but I feel inclusion slows down the process, disarms and allows self-doubt to stay in balance for everyone involved.
To Dr. Gupta’s point, I use inclusion as a way to manage up and disarm a leader that is tempted to show their power when I do not necessarily agree with their a decision or plan. To be successful, I have to be consistent with my inclusion, which takes self awareness and execution everyday.
Thanks for the conservation, Dan. This was a great topic!
Awesome advice! I’ve struggled with self doubt. It is like a double edged sword … it can cripple you and inspire you … the trick is to get the right balance. Arrogant leaders may smell the self doubt in you and use it against you. So when you have self-doubt, make sure you camouflage it well because it’s like blood in the water for SHARK (arrogant) leaders.
Thanks Michael. I wish your suggestion to hide self-doubt wasn’t necessary. But, in some organizations is definitely is. Plus, backstabbers will use this type of stuff against you.
That’s true 🙁 I have the scars of proof if you want to see them. Backstabbers are a special breed of character for the see themselves as a necessary evil in most situations and will always justify their actions as “for the good of the company”.
Great advice that I really needed to hear today. As Mr. LaPointe stated, self-doubt is a double-edged sword, but it is still protection! It wards off arrogance, closed-mindedness and ignorance. It opens the door to learning, sensitivity, collaboration and improvement.
Thanks Gabrielle. There is a very cool cadence to your comment. (I notice odd things like that)
You helped me see a connection between arrogance and ignorance. Love it.
I’ve been struggling with self-doubt for weeks now, based on the outcomes of a work project and a personal relationship. This was timely and much appreciated.
Thanks Cory. The fact that you shared the struggle suggests you’re dealing with the concern. 🙂 I believe everyone struggles with self-doubt in some areas. Welcome to the crowd.
Navigating to the self doubt should lead to the constructive activity. A leader should be self exploratory, he should not doubt his ability to accomplish the job in hand. self exploration and self doubt should be always filled with the further recourse and ideas to overcome the obstacle. A person who think that he is always right and he does not need to doubt his ability and he need not to explore himself, definitely, he is on self destruction mode. In a life, a time comes when sometimes we doubt our own capability and capacity this is time when we explore our own hidden strength.
Thanks Rajesh. You helped me see the connection between exploration and self-doubt. Where there is no doubt, exploration goes down. Self-doubt is motivation to explore. Cheers
Wow – I really needed to read this today. Great insight and encouragement.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to work for really good leaders and not so good leaders. The one’s I’ve enjoyed have had enough “self doubt” to be able to express their concerns and let the teams help them solve problems. The worst have been those that believe they’ve got all the answers and, rather than encourage others to solve problems and learn from mistakes, insist on rushing in, making edicts, and rarely seeing either their own mistakes or the ability of others.
Self doubt can be very healthy as long as it does not result in paralyzing the decision making process. It takes true confidence and a lot of trust to fully explore self doubt. Not being afraid to be portrayed as not 100% confident as a leader opens the leader to question and many fear loss of authority and I guess a degree of certainty. Leaders are held responsible for results and thus need to ensure they are seen as seeking council and not avoiding accountability. Encouraging open discussion and collaboration is fundamental in reaching rich and well accepted decisions and is key to the building of the organization’s culture.
Yet again the power is in the questions. 🙂
that self doubt can lurk beneath the surface. It’s almost worse when it doesn’t fully assert itself!
Try and acquire patterns that are graded according to skill levels; beginner intermediate aand advanced.