Thought for the Week: Confidence for 2012

If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  Abraham Lincoln

According to the National Leadership Index for 2011, recently published by the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, American’s confidence in their leaders has dropped to the lowest point since the Index was created in 2005. While this measure has been declining steadily, the drop from 2010 to 2011 was significant in itself. While none of the sectors investigated improved over the last 12 months, only two remained above average (Military and Medical). Not surprisingly, confidence dropped the most for leaders in Congress, and the lowest area of confidence was…Wall Street. Confidence in business leaders in generally dropped as well and leaders in Education suffered their second year in a row with a statistically significant decline.

ConfidenceInterestingly enough, most Americans are still optimistic. The report also states that 77% of Americans agree or strongly agree that we have a leadership crisis (9% higher than in 2010) yet 75% believe that leadership can also turn things around. At the same time, this number has also dropped nearly 10% over the past two years.

This means that it’s time to make 2012 the year of confidence building.  In fact, I believe this is the greatest leadership imperative that exists at this time.  Everybody needs a certain amount of self-confidence, but leaders have to build confidence in others as well.  As a leader you do this through:

1. Communicating a positive view of the future. Acknowledge the concerns, but don’t focus exclusively on communicating them. People know these are challenging times…what they are looking for is hope.

2. Listen to your people. There are great ideas out there among those who are working on the front line. Pay attention to them.

3. Celebrate every success. Even if you believe it is a small contribution, remember that your followers are making an effort. A simple “nice job” is all it takes sometimes to encourage those who look to you for leadership

The lack of confidence in leadership is not going to change by chance. It will change by the concerted and intentional effort of folks like you to lead your people out of the mess.

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