Confidence in the incomplete leader

The humility — confidence seesaw. Downloaded here

Last month, following a team meeting to reflect on our achievements and think out our objectives, someone mentioned a blog by Keith Mackiggan where Keith ‘came out’ about his own lack of confidence. It’s a great blog, where he says:

First, confidence matters. It matters to leadership. You’ll know that from your own experience of being led. Believing in your leaders is crucial to good followership.

He goes on to explain his challenges developing confidence, concluding:

I’ve realised that I should stop focusing so much on the things others are better at than me, start focusing on the things I’m naturally good at, really deploy those strengths to the max, and get my team to help fill the gaps, which is empowering for them, too.

It has had real resonance around the organisation since Keith posted it last summer and struck a cord with many. People have found it reassuring that someone in Keith’s position (he is our Central and Southern Africa Director and always comes across as confident, ambitious and inspiring) is prepared to be so open about his challenges and coping strategies.

We talked about the ideas Keith discussed in this blog and the notion of the ‘incomplete leader.’ In my favorite leadership book, the authors David Pendleton & Adrian Furnham highlight the improbability that any individual could be extremely good at all aspects of leadership. They propose that we might be better off focusing on our strengths rather than fixating on ‘areas for development’. I find this hugely empowering though it might slightly contradict conventional competency frameworks.

What is great about this idea is that while no individual can be ‘complete’, a team can. We put this into practice last year in my team when we and discussed my own 360 feedback and where I was under-delivering as the Head of Department. We identified what strengths we needed to ‘complete’ the leadership of the team and proceeded to recruit a new deputy head with these skill sets.

The team found it really empowering as it gave them the space to have a frank discussion about my weaknesses and take responsibility for identifying the deputy head of our department. I found it liberating as it gave me the space to learn more about my strengths and weaknesses, focus more on what I was good at, and rely on the wider team to provide ‘complete leadership’.

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