5 Ways Leaders Bust Confidence

5 Ways Leaders Bust Confidence post image

Leaders work hard to build confidence in their teams.

They know that building confident teams and people is vital to success.

Confident team members are more creative, communicate more effectively,

and take more risks.

Plus, it’s easier to delegate to a confident person.

Sometimes the very actions leaders take to create confidence, can backfire. How does what was meant to be a confidence-builder become a confidence buster? It’s a matter of depth.

Here are a few ways well-intentioned leaders destroy confidence (from the follower’s point of view):

 1. Give me a new big task, because you believe in me

… but don’t give me enough support to succeed

2. Tell me I am doing great

…with no details as to what is working

3. Recognize what I do at work

… and ignore who I am and what I am accomplishing on the sidelines

4. View me as a specialist

… and overlook my creative ideas and what I could contribute to the bigger picture

5. Stay calm, cool, and collected

… and show no emotion around my big wins

The common thread through all of these well-intentioned actions is how much the leader invests. Building confidence requires exploring deeply with someone. Understanding what they are most proud of and building on that through specific opportunities, feedback and recognition.

It also involves getting into the muck, working a few levels below the obvious insecurity to understand what scares them, and helping them to overcome those fears one step at a time.

With subtle shifts in approach, leaders can build on their positive intentions, and work to create stronger, more-confident followers.

Please share your insights: What well-intentioned behaviors have you seen backfire?
Filed Under:   Energy & Engagement
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

Steve Borek   |   16 August 2012   |   Reply

All great points Karin. What I’m seeing out there with clients and prospects is that leaders are so overwhelmed and doing more with less they’re stressed to the max. They’re surviving vs. thriving. They have no time to focus on their people. Another great reason for leaders to get a coach in the mix to create the difference they’re looking for.

letsgrowleaders   |   16 August 2012   |   Reply

Thanks so much, Steve. I do think being busy and pressured has a lot to do with it. Yes, I have seen coaches really help with this.

gregblencoe   |   16 August 2012   |   Reply


One problem I’ve seen happen is that leaders can delegate so much work to star employees that it turns into “dumping.”

It’s a huge compliment that the employee is trusted to get the job done, but the person then has too much work to do. And the employee can get very frustrated, because they will likely either have to work really fast in the same number of hours they are at work or work more hours.

I heard this many years ago and I’ve found it to be true:

Sometimes the reward for good work is more work.

letsgrowleaders   |   16 August 2012   |   Reply

thanks so much. Yup, I have been on both sides of that.

Anonymous   |   16 August 2012   |   Reply


Great insight. I really enjoyed the article because I see so much of this every day. I remember one manager I had, we all called him Mr. B (or Brew) and he was a man of very few words. So whenever I had a meeting with him as I walked in the doorway, I always gave him a compliment. It didn’t matter what the compliment was, but I usually thanked him for taking the time to meet with me. That always started our conversation off in such a great way and usually ended with him complimenting me on something I had done for him or the team. I see a leader as not always being the person with the plush corner office space.

letsgrowleaders   |   17 August 2012   |   Reply

Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I love your story on connection, and how that made you feel.

williamjs   |   08 October 2012   |   Reply

Very nice post Karin. I’m sharing it on my linkedin.

letsgrowleaders   |   08 October 2012   |   Reply

William, Thanks so much! I really appreciate your commenting and sharing.

tips for confidence   |   05 June 2013   |   Reply

Good information. Lucky me I found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
I have book-marked it for later!

letsgrowleaders   |   05 June 2013   |   Reply

Thanks so much. Great to have you here. Please let me know if there are particulary topics that interest you.