From a very young age we are encouraged to seek out positive feedback. Therefore, moving into a position of leadership where we might be required to ask people, or worse still, our friends to do things they don't want to do can be scary. Many people lack confidence and self-esteem, which can relate back to childhood experiences and/or parental relationships.
For the last 15-20 years, personal development training has been based around seeking and taking the positive; feeling positive, erasing doubt, seeking out positive feedback, praise and so on.
Fragile confidence and self-esteem
In today's fast-moving and fast-changing world there is always going to be a strong element of unknown. How easy is it when facing those moments of unknown to assume that everyone else around us does know?
At this fragile time, while our confidence is often still being constructed, it is far easier to see everyone around us as being more knowledgeable, more experienced, less nervous, and less frightened than ourselves.
Moving into a position of leadership, where we might be required to ask people, or worse still, our friends to do things that they don't want to do - possibly at times that they don’t want to do it - can be especially scary.
Where are our role models to learn from? They tend - particularly within business - to be managers, and not always great ones! The process of becoming a leader is a hard one. All too often the prospective new leader finishes up becoming a clone of the managers that previously managed them. This is particularly true as the pressure and stress levels around them increase.
Take a moment to think, is this what you want for you?
At this stage, often it is not just down to the fact that as a new leader 'you don’t know what they don't know.' For many, it may also be the case that they are still nursing fragile egos and low or at least fluctuating self-esteem for whatever reason, often without even realising it!
Most of the people I coach and have been privileged to coach over the years have had issues around confidence and self-esteem in one or several aspects of their lives. More often than not these issues related back to their upbringing and parental relationships. I always find it incredible that issues and events in our childhood still manage to have so much impact upon our confidence and performance in and out of work 10, 20, 30, 40, and in a couple of cases 50 years later!
In the main, these were all people who would have been perceived by others as high-performers, yet what we perceive on the outside of a person is not always what is happening on the inside. In my experience, people often assume that everyone else is OK, and that it's just us that have a hang-up or problem surrounding a particular issue!
Ironically, we often assume that other people are the ones who are or will be right, and that their values and life experience qualify them to have an opinion that we should value.
Why is this? Is it to avoid disagreement? Or, is it because we don’t wish to stand out in a crowd?
Frequently, it comes back to this need to please and do right in order that we receive the positive feedback we are programmed to desire, particularly where we do not feel very experienced in an area.
In those early days of proving yourself, it can feel so tenuous and difficult to go against the flow and beg to differ with consensus, because of a 'feeling,' which is buried deep inside 'our gut'.
Our natural state is to be drawn to others who share similarities, and we unite around those. We have done in fact since childhood, be those uniting factors sport, music, personal interests, friends, TV programmes, holidays, etc. Sometimes having to speak against the norm with this 'peer-set' can feel difficult, but in reality and in nature it's often (but not exclusively) opposites that attract, or put another way opposites that compliment.
One of the scary aspects about leadership is that as an effective leader, you have to be the one to not only unite (in many cases) and embrace diversity, and then sustain that united position, but also influence it. It's certainly going to be hard to be liked by all, and at the same time!
Standing out from the crowd, embracing diversity, influencing differing minds and being different may all be viewed as scary past-times, and so we need to first look at you, before determining how we do it!
You are really just a summation of your life's experiences. The events over your lifetime have shaped a large part of who you are today, but sometimes who we are can be at odds with who we are trying to be.
Nigel Watson is a member of the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and is managing director of Q4 Solutions .