Four Key Mindsets To Own Your Confidence In Leadership And Increase Your Success

Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance.

- Tony Schwartz, President & CEO, The Energy Project

Confidence is the belief in oneself and one's unique abilities. When we’re confident, we trust ourselves as we move forward into the unknown.

The work I do with high-performing female leaders in STEM consistently shows that women who develop clarity around what they bring to the table demonstrate higher levels of confidence to speak up, show up and take control of situations they previously avoided. This confidence is the cornerstone on which rests many core skills that impact essential leadership capabilities, including public speaking, networking and influencing others.

However, research shows that women’s confidence is one key reason for the gender gap in the technology sector. A lack of or low-level confidence often holds women back from contributing to their fullest potential. Studies show that female computer-science contractors with eight years of programming experience are as confident in their skills as their male peers who have less than one year of programming experience. This dramatic 7:1 ratio is not okay, yet it’s unlikely that men will start lowering their own confidence, so it is up to women to bridge this gap.

In 2021, I had the opportunity to connect with women C-suite leaders for a project on women in tech. These successful women showcased four key mindsets that contributed to their success. Let’s explore them.


1. Take charge of your career.

We cannot assume that other people will see our brilliance nor know what we want to do with our careers. One leader, a partner with a Big 4 accounting firm, shared that where she originally began her career, in India, it was believed that when you work hard, you will be noticed. When she moved to the United States, she discovered the hard way that this didn't hold true. That is until she was passed up for a promotion. Fortunately, she had the courage to ask why, to which her boss replied, “I didn’t know you were looking for a promotion.” The words of wisdom she shares seem simple yet are often missed: Let people know you want to be promoted.

Tell people about your goals and aspirations. Pursue opportunities that interest you, and build the business case to show the solutions you offer. No one else is responsible for your growth. You get to navigate your career, which means you must be proactive in vocalizing what you want it to be.

2. Own your worth.

You got to where you are today because of your talent. Your skills. Your attributes. This plays an important part in building self-confidence to get you to where you want to go next. Reflect on what your reputation is and what you do differently that creates impact and gets results (e.g., inspiring others, connecting dots between multiple ideas, delivering quality every time).

If you are struggling to do this for yourself, reach out to five trusted people in your circle (e.g., peers, direct reports, your manager) and simply ask them to answer: What three words would you use to describe me?

Within their answers, you’ll likely find a pattern pointing to what you know in your gut is your truth. Having others shine a spotlight on your uniqueness helps you better understand your strengths and, therefore, your worth within a leadership role. As Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!” You are your strength. Own it.

3. Know your truths.

Self-doubt happens to everyone across all genders. It’s part of the human condition. When you sense doubt creeping in and impacting your confidence, it’s a sign to act. Walk yourself through these four steps to help you remember your truths.

  • Notice the rabbit holes that take your thoughts down a self-doubt spiral. There are often patterns as to what triggers these thoughts.
  • Remember that these are merely thoughts, not reality. Thoughts are not truths. The truth is that you are where you are in your career because of your strengths and unique “secret sauce” that others have pointed to.
  • Reflect on your strengths when you feel yourself going down the rabbit hole of “I’m not enough.” Review your “data” from your list of achievements, note why you are remarkable, the impact you’ve had and see if these “less than” thoughts hold up in the bright light of day.
  • Rinse and repeat this cycle each time you feel a non-truth about your strengths creeping in.

4. Increase your influence.

Influence happens in ripples. Get strategic about the influence you want to have. Speak up in meetings, choosing your moments to make an impact. Have fun with it. For instance, make a pact with yourself that you will speak within the first 15 minutes of the meeting. It can be as simple as reiterating what the purpose of the meeting is, what everyone’s role in the meeting is, what the group wants to walk away with and so forth.

Confidence comes from developing grit, the ability to be optimistic, persistent and adapt as needed. Know that you will fall, and trust that you will get up. Self-trust is a key ingredient for fueling your confidence growth. Your belief in your worth grows. This is how we begin to close the confidence gap and own our worth as leaders. Let's get to work!