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Top tags: Leadership  Capability  Character  Courage  self-confidence 

Self-confidence as a key factor in leadership

Posted By Jakub Grzadzielski, Leadership - the practical approach, 20 May 2020
Updated: 20 May 2020

Self-confidence is undoubtedly one of the absolutely necessary traits of every leader. It is hard to imagine that a person characterized by low confidence could inspire employees and lead in the direction of the chosen vision. Self-confidence is a key factor in leadership. Especially nowadays people want to work for leaders with specific views and traits, among which is self-confidence.

However, I often coach leaders with misinterpreted confidence, consisting of an aggressive attitude towards others. In my opinion, this type of attitude is not part of leadership because it does not strive to create a harmonious work environment or build lasting, positive relationships based on mutual respect. From my experience, this attitude is most often taken by leaders trying to mask their complexes and low self-esteem in this way.

In addition, I found that the impact of leaders who do not adopt an aggressive attitude is definitely greater. Their positive attitude and confidence will always attract more people because they simply have more to offer. In human nature, the desire for stability prevails, not perpetual aggression and fierceness. I noticed that confident leaders have a better impact on their people in many ways. I would include, first of all, their naturalness in contacts with my employees. Such a leader does not have to pretend anything or anyone. It is authentic and therefore also reliable.

When people see and know that what they observe is not a game on the part of their supervisor, they start to trust him more and more. His naturalness in behavior allows employees to get to know him more as a human and in this way begin to identify with him and his views. But positive self-confidence not only helps in building relationships. It gives the leader the opportunity to consistently lead the team along the chosen path, create and cultivate a favorable culture, and establish ethical rules. This is indirectly due to the fact that he does not have to constantly strive to maintain his position among other leaders. He can devote all his attention and energy to the team.

From my experience, I can add that self-confidence gives a great inner peace, which is very useful when making many decisions every day. I also noticed that confidence is very contagious and easily transferred to other members of my team. This can easily be explained. If employees feel calm and support, they begin to act and behave more confidently. Another benefit is greater ease when taking risks. Of course, I mean well-thought-out decisions, but burdened with an unknown outcome. An experienced leader realizes that his path will never be a series of endless successes. However, the essence of the matter is that his confidence remains unwavering even after failure.

I found that self-confidence is probably the most visible during public appearances. I believe that it is always a check of the capabilities and confidence of each leader. Therefore, it is a trait an inseparable element of inspiring the people you lead, and thus the basic task of every supervisor. What also distinguishes great leaders is the promotion of the success of their employees and taking full responsibility for team failures as well as not building a distance between them and employees. This is due to self-confidence as a team leader. Confident leadership also means better coherence, communication and transparency in the team. Increases the credibility of a leader, drives his team and enables achieving above average results in the long run.

Tags:  Leadership  self-confidence 

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The Three "C"s of Leadership

Posted By Calum Byers, Schiltron Associates, 03 September 2017

The British Army has been providing courses on leadership development at Sandhurst since 1812 when it was recognised that leading men into battle required more than an aristocratic background.  I was at a leadership seminar there recently where the commandant was reflecting on what they saw as the criteria for leadership.

He summarised them as the three “C” s -  Courage, Capability and Character.  It is interesting to reflect on how well these map directly onto leadership in a business context.


Although not generally asked to put their lives on the line – being a leader requires courage.  It can be difficult to hold the line on an unpopular initiative, or to move well outside a comfort zone to take on new challenges.  One definition of courage is “to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially in the face of strong opposition” and this is critical for a leader to ensure that they can remain consistent and keep an activity – and a team – focussed on the overall objective.  Sometimes, a leader may have to maintain a distance from colleagues – this can be very lonely and takes courage to live with the realities of leadership challenges without the ability to share the load.


To be credible as a leader, the nature of the task being undertaken must be understood and the leader be seen to be adding real value – either directly based on their experience in that field – or indirectly through their ability to motivate and aspire the team.   Intelligence, communication skills and creativity are all factors which contribute to the ability of the leader to add value – and to be seen to be doing so by the team and other stakeholders.


This is perhaps the broadest and most interesting topic.  At Sandhurst, there is a very thorough selection school which tests courage and capability but which is particularly focussed on character.   There are several aspects to this including openness, self-confidence, self-awareness and resilience -  but perhaps the most important is integrity.   I’ll come back to this in a later post.


An exercise:   how well does this model map onto how you assess people for leadership roles?   What would be the aspects of character that you would look for – and which are the most important?

Tags:  Capability  Character  Courage  Leadership 

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Bringing Goals into Reach

Posted By Jacqueline Ann Surin, 01 July 2017

In my previous posting, I shared how a coach who uses Clean Language would begin client sessions with, “What would you like to have happen?”

That question invites clients to think about what they would like to have happen instead of what may be currently happening. It creates a space for clients to think about what they want instead of what they don’t want. Doing that helps clients move from problem to a desired outcome or solution.

I learnt another way of asking that question for when clients have intractable problems, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) disappeared in 2014.

The co-authors of Metaphors in Mind, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, were training us in Malaysia just after the MH370 tragedy. We got to talking about how we could use Clean Language to counsel grieving family members if the chance arose.

The standard invitation of “What would you like to have happen?” would have resulted in answers such as, “I want my wife back”. Or “I want to know what happened to my family”. Or “I want the plane and all those on board found safe somewhere.”

My question was, how could you use Clean Language to support clients with an outcome that was way outside of their control? What’s more, it was highly uncertain not just if but also when these desired outcomes would ever come to pass. 

Setting a time frame

Tompkins and Lawley’s answer was, use the same question and fix the time frame for a desired outcome in the here and now, or in the near future.

For example, if a client said, “I want my wife back”, the coach could ask, “And you want your wife back. And what would you like to have happen between now and when you have your wife back?”

Or if a client had said, “I want to know what happened to my family”, then a coach could ask, “And you want to know what happened to your family. And what would you like to have happen between now and when you know what happened to your family?”

Asking the question in this way fixes the client’s attention on what they may be able to affect in the short term rather than agonize over what may or may not happen in the long term. 

When goal is far away

I’ve used that same way of asking that question when clients have a goal that is far off in time and space.

One client I coached in 2015, whose firm was in a state of flux, said he needed stability. But that could only happen in 2016 when some staff had left and new hires had joined the company.

So, I asked him, “And what would you like to have happen between now and 2016?” When I asked him that question, this is what happened. He was able to articulate what needed to happen while waiting for his head count and the fluidity of different personalities in the ecosystem to stabilise. 

At the end of our session, he reported he had found some “concrete and practical solutions” to his issue at work. “It’s good that we were able to walk through the steps to get somewhere,” he said, even though all the steps were his. I merely asked him some Clean Questions that fixed his attention on the near future, instead of a year and a half down the line.

When else could you use the question in that way? If a client said, “I want to buy a new house” or “I want to publish a novel”, you could ask, “And what would you like to have happen now during this session so that you can buy a new house/publish a novel?”

To recap, Clean Questions are a set of simple, neutral questions developed by the late David Grove. These questions reflect back only the coachee’s words so that the client is only dealing with their stuff. None of my stuff pollutes the client’s experience.

I will continue to blog on Clean Language and how it can be applied in both one-on-one client work and in group facilitation, and I hope they provide you with useful coaching tips.

Jacqueline Ann Surin

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Two Coaching Questions to Crystallise Awareness

Posted By Jacqueline Ann Surin, 01 July 2017

I use two questions a lot of the time to help coaching clients develop their awareness. This might be an awareness about their desired outcome or about a resourceful state they want more of. 

These two questions are from Clean Language. They are:

What kind of [X] is that?

And is there anything else about that [X]?

The [X] would be the client’s words. Clean Language, as I’ve explained in my previous blogs, are a set of simple, neutral questions developed by the late David Grove. These questions reflect back only the coachee’s words so that the client is only dealing with their stuff. None of my stuff pollutes the client’s experience.

These questions are two basic questions that Clean Language coaches most often use. 

How does it work?

I would only use these questions once it’s clear the client is articulating a desired outcome. That means they have begun to think about something new in their lives that makes their lives better. I would also use these two questions if they were talking about a resourceful state, such as patience or confidence or resilience. If they wanted to model these states so that they could access it even better, these two Clean developing questions will work like a treat.  

I would not ask them these Clean developing questions if they were stuck in problem except in specific situations which I have blogged about previously. If the purpose of coaching is to support a client in having what they want, asking them to develop their problem even more is not going to be helpful!

Here is how I’ve used these two questions. A client said she was unable to make some of the important decisions in her life because she kept flip-flopping over them. In the coaching, “trusting that whatever happens, things may actually be OK” emerged as something she needed to make those decisions.

Coach: And when trusting like that, what kind of trusting is that trusting?

Client: It’s just a gut feeling of trust.

Coach: And just a gut feeling of trust. And is there anything else about that gut feeling of trust?

Client: Having this gut feeling of trust would enable me to actually take the plunge. I would just dive into something without thinking too much.

With a bit more coaching, the client realised she would have that “gut feeling of trust”, that led her to make the decisions she needed to, when her “heart was cheering” and “her head had an action plan”.

The way I think about it, when I’m coaching a client, fragments of what they want begin to emerge for them like a hologram. Asking clients these Clean questions helps the hologram crystalise even more. And the more clients can imagine what they want, or the more they can understand their experience of being resourceful in some way, the easier it becomes for them to find their own resolutions.

I hope these tips have been useful for you. Look out for my future blog posts on Clean Language and how it can be applied in both one-on-one client work and in group facilitation.

Jacqueline Ann Surin

Image source: Ian Truelove, CC BY-SA 2.0

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When Clients Don't Know What They Want

Posted By Jacqueline Ann Surin, 01 July 2017

This is a question I’ve had to think about. I see my  role as a coach as helping clients get clear about what they would like instead of what they don’t like or want. And yet, I’ve had clients who can’t articulate what they want.

Sometimes, that’s because they just don’t know yet. On some occasions, I’ve had clients who didn’t ask for coaching and were sent by their boss instead.

I’ve discovered that using Clean Language allows me several ways to coach a client so that they can develop their own outcomes and solutions even if they are initially unclear about what they want.

Clean Questions are a set of simple, neutral questions developed by the late David Grove. These questions reflect back only the coachee’s words so that the client is only dealing with their stuff. None of my stuff pollutes the client’s experience.

“I don’t know”

One way to open a Clean coaching session is to ask: “What would you like to have happen?”

It’s a specific Clean question that invites a client to think about what they want instead of what they don’t want. This question is especially useful if a client is facing a challenge or feeling stuck in some way.

And just because I ask that question, doesn’t mean clients immediately or automatically gain clarity about what it is they want.

For example, I’ve had clients answer: “I don’t know.” Another Clean Language coach reported that, after repeated attempts to get his client to think about what they wanted, the client said, “Don’t ask me that question again”.
What would you do in that kind of situation?

Here are some things I’ve done during a coaching session, using only Clean questions, that might also work for you:

1. I would help them develop their understanding of what the problem is like for them, especially how they are actually experiencing it.  I would ask, “And when you feel anxiety, what kind of anxiety is that?” and “And is there anything else about anxiety?” I might even ask, “And whereabouts is that anxiety?” or “And where could that anxiety have come from?”

In my previous blog, I shared how asking that last question resulted in my client knowing a bit more about his anxiety. As a result, he could then let it go i.e. he knew what he wanted to do with his anxiety.

2. I might ask, “And when you don’t know, what would you like to have happen now/in this session/until you do know?” One client, who said he didn’t need to be coached and only came to see me because his boss had made it mandatory for him, said: “I’d like to find out more about coaching. And I’d like to find out if you’re genuine.” I used only Clean Questions to find out more about what he needed to know. And we had an honest conversation about what he felt was needed in his firm. His feedback about the session? He said, “I felt like I was in my moment, rolling a cigarette” and he was assured that I was genuine!

3. And finally, I might say, “And you don’t know. And when you don’t know, how do you know you don’t know?”  One client said she knew she didn’t know because “my mind is nothing”. And that gave me an opportunity to ask a few more Clean Questions about “nothing” until she realised she needed to think quietly for something to come up for her.

I hope these tips have been useful for you. Look out for my future blog posts on Clean Language and how it can be applied in both one-on-one client work and in group facilitation.


Jacqueline Ann Surin

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When Managers Support Engagement - Can Coaching Support the Managers?

Posted By ​ Emma Donaldson-Fielder and Rachel Lewis, 01 July 2017

With the recent publication of the results of the Great Place to Work 2014 study pinpointing yet again that line managers are fundamental to driving employee engagement, it feels as if not a week goes by without another article championing the benefit of employee engagement and the importance of managers for achieving it. But what does this mean for us as coaches and for the world of coaching?

Recent research, by my colleagues at Affinity Health at Work and I, has identified factors that are key for the success of management development programmes designed to instill behaviours that promote the health and sustainable engagement of those being managed. The great news for the coaching profession is that this research consistently points to the need for a range of approaches, including coaching, in order to facilitate the development of managers in the pursuit of sustainable engagement. 

Using available evidence from both academic research and practitioner expertise, we have created a model/checklist to support the design effective management development, facilitate application of management skills in the workplace and set the context for sustainable behaviour change. For the coaching profession, the research reveals some considerations and top tips to consider when coaching individuals who are participating in a management development programme:

  • Ensure participants have opportunities to practice and get feedback on their learning and their new management skills.
  • Embed learning using a range of activities, such as coaching and action learning sets, which enable management development programme participants to work on real issues and learn with and from each other.
  • Build individuals’ confidence and ensure that they feel that they can succeed.
  • Build self-awareness in managers and recognition of themselves as leaders: this can be achieved for instance through personality assessment and multi-rater feedback. The establishment of ‘leader identity’ is an important part of the process.
  • Consider the inclusion of After Event Reviews, in which individuals are facilitated to unpick and dissect every thought and decision that led to the outcome of a particular event in order to expose errors that caused problems and identify successes in themselves and colleagues that led to positive results.

If you are involved in the design or delivery of a management development programme aimed at improving engagement and wellbeing, Affinity Health at Work would love to hear from you. Our research, although rigorous in its approach, is in its infancy and we would really value your insight: please complete our online questionnaire at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/developingmanagers2015.


Emma Donaldson-Fielder and Rachel Lewis

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Curiosity and Leadership

Posted By Rachael Ross, 01 July 2017

I recently heard an executive being interviewed about his organisation’s problems and the lack of leadership. The top team was criticised for lacking “any curiosity about the situation”.

The ability to remain curious about what surrounds you is, I believe, a key aspect of excellence in leadership and is a mind-set that coaching can help bring out and expand in leaders.

One of the problems of senior leadership – particularly in a traditionally hierarchical culture - is the isolation that can creep in; junior staff tell you what they think you want to hear, and leaders can lose touch with their “curiosity” about things, finding it all too easy to close down their awareness and look for what confirms their own point of view. This “confirmatory bias” as it’s sometimes called, can blunt leaders’ perceptions and disable their organisation’s surefooted response to signs that a nudge in a new direction is needed.

In more recent coaching conversations with leaders, I am finding a new appetite to address this. I sense that this is partly due to a realisation that they need to question how they have led their organisations in the past, and that a lack of curiosity and a tendency to “groupthink” was part of the root cause of problems in many financial services’ Boardrooms during the financial crisis.

Leaders are increasingly aware that they need to challenge their own leadership and find a different and more “curious” way of engaging with the wider organisation.

I was coaching a senior manager recently, who makes it his business to invite Execs and Non Exec Directors out with him on regular site visits. These visits had opened the Directors’ eyes to day-to-day realities and kept them close-up and curious about the sharp end of the business.

Here are some questions that Directors can ask themselves about their own leadership and are good “curiosity stimulants”:

Curiosity and Leadership

When these “curiosity questions” are used by leaders, this is good news for business, as it is likely to lead to a more inclusive style of leadership where alternative points of view are encouraged – and these “Curious Questions for Directors” add a dash of leadership humility which is a good antidote to the damaging isolation of senior office.

For support and challenge to liven up your “curiosity” antennae, do get in touch.         

Rachael Ross

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