86: Building Confidence as a Leader


Welcome friends to Episode #86 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. Any time that we begin to step into a new arena of growth, scope or environment we have to cross the bridge of leadership. Leadership of ourselves and of others. We would love to feel confident to lead ourselves and others but how do we do that? Today, we’re going to understand what it takes to build confidence as a leader.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, confidence is a “feeling or belief that you can rely on someone or something; firm trust”. It’s “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities and qualities.”

I’d like to start with the definition of confidence because most people feel like confidence is something that is bequeathed to people. We think about how other people just seem to ooze confidence or that they seem born to lead. While we may have some natural inclination to desire to be more or less extraverted or introverted, we cannot confuse confidence with big personalities.

Many of you can think about people who you have a lot of confidence in, that are not loud or in your face about everything. There is a sense of quiet confidence that you notice or feel. They seem naturally good at this thing that they are doing.


Confidence usually arises after a period of time spent doing something. Practicing something, whether it is a presentation, pitch or a new service you are offering will help you feel less fear and more confidence. We forget that this is entirely within our control. Even if it means that we know that we’re terrible at the beginning, we can practice. 

What gets in the way of us practicing is that we feel like we need to be good before we even start. We have all this drama in our minds about being less than perfect that we don’t even do what we can do, which is to start. Start before you’re ready and you’ll be ready. If you never start, you’ll never be ready. 

This is why you should say yes to opportunities to practice even if they don’t seem completely aligned with your goal, yet. Say yes to public speaking and presentations. Say yes to practicing your craft or your art with any client who wants to work with you. Say yes to writing and creating things for other people because these are the first, second and third drafts that get better with every round.

Say yes to the start and you’ll realize that this is just the beginning. Practicing then doesn’t become a bore or something you don’t want to do, it becomes what raises your value in the marketplace and with yourself. It builds your confidence and skills.


If you need to learn more to build your confidence, then do it. People often stop moving forward because they don’t address the obstacles. They just think about them. They think about all the things they don’t know and the things they will have to learn and instead of signing up for a class, mentorship, or coaching they just keep thinking about what they don’t know. Instead of solving the problem of not knowing how to move forward, they spend time ruminating on not moving forward.

We will never know everything about new arenas. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. This is what every successful coach and leader understands. They don’t have all the answers and they are ok learning and failing in order to figure out the answers. Your speed in terms of figuring out what you don’t know will determine how quickly you build your confidence and therefore your value as a leader.

How to be Confident if You’ve Never Done This Before

When you’ve never done something before, you will naturally feel fear or a sense of being an imposter. I remember thinking, “what if they find out I’m not this smart?” after I started working at McKinsey.

This is when we get to decide that we’re committed to this goal of leading in this new way. What if I told you that you will always be facing things you’ve never done before until the day you die? You may never feel smart or accomplished enough. Yet, we want to move forward into doing things we’ve never done before.  This means that life will always be somewhat uncomfortable. 

When you reach the point where you are willing to feel all kinds of emotions and feelings, including fear and discomfort – you are at the perfect place to learn, grow and become even better at what you do – no matter what it is. Most people are unwilling to feel bad about themselves so if they’ve never done something before, they pull back and don’t even bother trying.

I love to remind myself and others that you’re going to feel uncomfortable anyways. Why not do it on the path to something you desire, like learning how to lead and create massive value?

If you want to be confident in yourself with something you’ve never done before, remind yourself of all the things you’ve already done that you didn’t know how to do at some point. This is why becoming a person who does what they say and continues to set and achieve their goals is so important in building your self-identity and self-concept as a leader. Leaders know that they are the ones people look to when all else fails. They are the ones who bring certainty and confidence to a situation, instead of waiting for confidence to come to them.

Imagine a world where you get to create the rules and the future. You know how to play this game even if you don’t know what’s going to happen next. This is the world we are living in but most people don’t realize it. This is the price of achieving.  Believing in yourself doesn’t come without the price of feeling discomfort. Believing in yourself is knowing you can and are willing to manage through discomfort.

How to be Confident When You Feel Others Know More

I remember very clearly so many times in my career when others knew more than me. When I was leading a pick/pack operation at a distribution center in Tennessee just out of college as part of a leadership development rotational program. When I was a new consultant at McKinsey just out of business school. These age and experience gaps, however, were all things that were outside of my control.

You will lose confidence in yourself if you focus on things outside of yourself that you cannot change, like other people’s experiences, thoughts or reactions. Instead of just rebelling against authority or thinking that you can’t manage knowing other people may know more, we focus on what we can do. 

The one thing we can do is to be aware of what we are facing and not ignore the reality of an age gap or experience gap. Then we can decide how to address it. We speak to the age or experience gap and name it. We are honest about what we don’t know. We focus one what we do know.

The world is going to be filled with people who continuously know and will know more than you do about a certain area. That’s a good thing. We can lean on them for help, support and guidance. Leadership isn’t about knowing more. Leadership is about bringing people together who have the knowledge and experience to move things forward and in helping to connect the dots.

This is usually the break most people struggle with the most as they move from self leadership to team leadership. They want to still know more about everything than other people and this creates a big gap in your ability to lead. True confidence comes knowing that your abilities are  yours to develop and build by practicing, learning and believing in yourself.

Believing in yourself is no small thing when it comes to the unknown. Yet, it is the most important thing for us to create a world that hasn’t yet been created. If we want to lead ourselves to experience lives with more wealth, health, spirituality and wholeness we must create it and lead ourselves and others, even when things feel uncertain and uncomfortable. 

Remind yourself that the moment you start to doubt is the moment you can begin to exercise the muscle of confidence. You practice, learn, and believe in yourself over and over and over again until you feel like a natural. Until then, there’s no way out but through, my friend – so keep building your confidence as a leader. We need you.

If this topic resonates with you and you want to see transformational results in your life, you’ll love coaching. Getting coached consistently is the spark that will light the fire of inspiration to make the change you’re looking to make. It is the first step in creating clarity, making a massive shift and moving obstacles out of your way so you can move forward. You can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.

If you’re ready to Own Your Best Life, I want to invite you to watch the free training on how to Stand Out and Lead, using spiritual, high-performance strategies. You can access the training at https://may-empson.mykajabi.com/stand-out-and-lead.

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