• Gaurav Mathur


Couple of days back, while driving back home from office, I heard a simple but a great story narrated on FM radio. It was one of the Akbar and Birbal chronicles, inspired from historically beautiful relationship shared by the two. Akbar was one of the most famous Emperors in the history of India. He is credited with starting several new things and brought love, peace and equality among the people of the nation. Birbal was not only a close friend of the Emperor but also used to handle administrative and military responsibilities. He was considered as a very intelligent person who possessed abundance of wit and intelligence.

One day Akbar decided to test Birbal’s intelligence. He picked up nine people from his kingdom that had physical attributes similar to him and trained them to act like him and made their faces and appearance look like him. Everyone in Akbar’s court was confused who the actual emperor was. Birbal was asked to identify the real one from the ten people standing in front of him in the court. He thought for couple of minutes, went and stood in front of the real Akbar, and said “You are our Emperor, your majesty”. Akbar was astonished and asked how he was able to identify him. He said, “Every other person was looking at you and was trying to copy your moves and trying to imitate your gestures. You were the only one standing confident and wasn’t trying to be the other person. Akbar and everyone in his court praised Birbal’s cleverness.

So, what’s the message from this short story? It was Akbar’s Self-confidence. This term might look very simple to us, we may feel very confident, but have we ever asked ourselves if we are really confident?

According to Wikipedia, “The socio-psychological concept of self-confidence relates to self-assurance in one’s personal judgment, ability, power, etc”. Self-confidence, the combination of self-efficacy and self-esteem, is an essential part of humanity. We gain a sense of self-efficacy when we see ourselves (and others similar to ourselves) mastering skills and achieving goals that matter in those skill areas. This is the confidence that, if we learn and work hard in a particular area, we’ll succeed; and it’s this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks.

This overlaps with the idea of self-esteem, which is a more general in the sense that we can cope with what’s going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy. Partly, this comes from a feeling that the people around us approve of , which we may or may not be able to control. However, it also comes from the sense that we are behaving honestly, that we’re competent at what we do, and that we can compete successfully when we put our minds to it. Here, we will try to relate how self-confidence has become the fundamental basis from which leadership grows.

Self-confidence is the cornerstone of leadership. You can teach a leader to be an effective problem solver; more decisive; a better communicator; how to coach, mentor and hold team members accountable; and many other fundamentals of leadership. Yet, without that leader first believing in himself or herself, true leadership will exist only in title. People like to work with leaders who are truly confident. Generally, when a leader exhibits confidence, it makes it easier to trust that leader, and people want to work with someone they trust. At the end of the day, leadership is about having the confidence to make decisions. If someone is afraid to make and commit to decisions, all of the communication and empowerment in the world won’t make a squat of difference.

Self-confidence doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” says psychologist Suzanne Roff, Ph.D. She believes confidence is largely built through our dealings with the world. When leaders exhibit confidence, they typically:

  • Are happy: They feel positive about their ability to lead people and deal with daily challenges. The have a “can do” attitude about whatever comes their way. Their team members appreciate working with an upbeat leader who holds a positive vision.

  • Have better relationships: They enter into positive, productive relationships. They feel good about themselves, treat others well and in turn, are treated well by others.

  • Are motivated and ambitious: They set goals and are motivated to accomplish them. They believe that the work they do is important and makes a difference in the company or even the world.

  • Laugh more: They can see the humor, even in challenging situations, and have the ability to put things into perspective. They also laugh sooner and more often.

  • Are open to risks: Or at least calculated risks. They confidently forge into the unknown and learn from their mistakes. They are not safely mired on the sidelines, but in the thick of the play.

  • Recognize success: Not only do they look for opportunities to genuinely recognize the success of others, they are also able to openly receive compliments.

  • Accept feedback: They welcome feedback from others and put their ideas into action. Because of their receptivity, people keep coming to them with feedback and ideas for improvement, helping the leader continue to grow and develop.

  • Think for themselves: They have a deep sense of their core values – what is right and wrong, and although open to feedback from others, confidently form their own opinion or pick their own course of action. They are easy to follow, because their words and actions are in alignment and consistent.

Never underestimate the critical connection between confidence and leadership. When people feel your confidence and trust you, they more willingly invest their time, energy and loyalty to ensure that you and the team are successful. In reality, self-confidence is a more important asset than skill, knowledge, or even experience. You won’t get to the top without self-confidence; to build it, you have to believe in yourself. Don’t worry about being perfect — put up a brave front and do the best you can.