Home > Women & Leadership > Developing Confidence in Women Leaders

Developing Confidence in Women Leaders

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 2 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Assertiveness Work Workplace Women

Women leaders face many challenges in the workplace and public arena, due to social and cultural stereotyping, gender biases and the constant struggle to balance work and family responsibilities. However, there is also one challenge that women often face which is entirely dependent on themselves and under their control – that of confidence.

Elusive Confidence

For some reason, many women are afraid to display confidence and assertiveness – perhaps they worry that it can be mistaken for arrogance - unlike their male counterparts who embrace it. And we all know, of course, that confidence is one of the big factors contributing to successful leadership.

Ironically, analytical studies done on over 60,000 senior level executives by a team of industrial psychologists revealed that women leaders actually ranked higher than their male peers in almost every respect (eg, communication skills, motivation, goal-setting) except one: confidence. They were much better and yet did not believe or act like they were better, or even just “good enough”. They lacked confidence in themselves and their abilities, despite the fact they performed far better than their male counterparts. Conversely, male leaders can often have an exaggerated sense of their own abilities!

The Importance Of Confidence And Assertiveness

In many arenas, confidence – also often known as “executive presence” – can be just as important if not more than impressive credentials and track record. It is often the essential prerequisite for career advancement in our increasingly competitive world and it is certainly an essential attribute of a successful and effective leader. It is so important and often so lacking in women that corporations like J.P. Morgan Chase and the Shell Group have sent many of their high-potential female leaders to special seminars, in order to help them develop it.

Confidence or “executive presence” involves the ability to enter a room and instantly take charge, through your strong presence, while forging quick, personal connections with the other members of the team. Leaders with confidence or “executive presence” will always command respect and attention when they speak; and their determination and conviction inspires and motivates those around them.

Developing Confidence

The good news is that with the right training, support and practice, confidence and assertiveness can be acquired and projected. In fact, it is an area of competence which is more easily developed than some of the other leadership skills. Therefore, there is no reason why this one elusive characteristic should prevent women from achieving leadership success.

Women often have unconscious habits and attitudes which prevent them from projecting an image of confidence. Here are some tips on how to correct and avoid these, in order to develop and cultivate confidence:

  • Carry yourself confidently: stand tall, shoulders, back, head held high, weight firm in each step. If you look confident, you will also feel more confident.
  • Studies show that female ex-military officers rarely have problems when entering high-level positions in the corporate world, as these women have learnt how to carry themselves to that they look confident and self-assured.
  • Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and offer your contributions. You have a unique perspective which may be highly valuable.
  • Studies by consulting firms show that many female leaders leave meetings without having said much – this makes them appear passive and unengaged and damages their potential for career advancement.
  • Speak with conviction: don’t use qualifiers or finish your sentences with the inflection of a question. This leads people to automatically doubt what you say.
  • Stop constantly worrying about other’s approval – this can be a common female trait. Many women seek approval to the detriment of their leadership roles.
  • Believe in yourself and your abilities.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • shopa
    Re: Benefits of Leadership
    When was the first time to publish this topic, please?
    29 April 2020
  • Bev
    Re: Effective Leadership and the Credit Crunch
    I am studying Political Leadership and would appreciate receiving your suggestions as to good resources for…
    2 January 2020
  • MSY
    Re: A Youth Leader
    just read the para for winning the owlympia...
    5 December 2019
  • XShazzabbyX
    Re: The Importance of Ethics in Leadership
    what would you define a manager that possesses qualities of both a leader and manager? if theyre both, surely they…
    22 October 2019
  • tommyT
    Re: A Sports Team Captain
    VERY Helpful..i was struggling with sports captain witch i needed for me assessment feel like from just reading this i could become a…
    5 September 2019
  • Mervin
    Re: A Sports Team Captain
    Thank you for your tips...and it made me to realize the importants of captaincy..
    18 August 2019
  • Danny
    Re: A Sports Team Captain
    It was very helpful for me as I got selected for the sports captain
    23 June 2019
  • journeytoleadershipb
    Re: The Importance of Assertive Leadership
    Great article! We tend to talk about confidence in leadership more than we talk about assertiveness. In your…
    28 April 2019
  • Taiman
    Re: A Political Leader
    This article is super dope. I have searched for so much on leadership, but political leadership discussion of this type has created and…
    25 July 2018
  • LeadershipExpert
    Re: A Political Leader
    Cutey - Your Question:Nice article and it is very useful too may I know who is the author of this article?
    2 July 2018