How to Fake Confidence as a Leader

Sometimes as a leader you'll find yourself in situations when you quickly realise you have to fake confidence.

You need to make a decision, there's a problem in the team, or there's some very senior eyeballs waiting to hear what you have to say, and your self-confidence vanishes like a puddle in the noonday sun.

So when the pressure's on, and you need to fake confidence, here are some ideas.

1. Say things, to be perceived as smart

Great leaders say things and people think they're super-smart for saying them. So all you need to do is find some buzzwords, things like bootstrap, agile, hyper-local or customer-centric.

It's not so much the content of what you say as how you come across while saying it, so keep going, keep skirting around things and you'll find that people fill in any blanks and give you credit for your out-of-the-box thinking.

2. Be loud, in order to be heard

Confident leaders are heard. Whether you're in a meeting, a conference call or something more informal, you have to make sure you're heard, otherwise people might not know that you're the leader.

So speak up. Talk over someone to make your point. Make the air bend to the sound of your voice.

Because if you're quiet and meek and mild, everyone will know you're not confident.

3. Be a jerk, to be decisive

A weak leader will pussy-foot around tricky decisions, especially so when you don't feel confident enough to make the right choice. But as a leader you've earned the right to be a bull in a china shop and call the shots, so own it.

You don't have to hear your team out, just do the opposite to show them you're in charge. You don't need to waste time considering all the angles, so close your eyes and pick one. And you don't have to explain your decisions, just tell them the way it is.

Being seen to be decisive is everything.

You could fake confidence, or...

You could see that faking confidence just makes you a faker, and put in the work instead.

Truth is, you haven't done it all. You don't have all the answers. You can't know everything.

So thinking that not feeling confident makes you less than, makes you a bad leader or makes you not good enough is simply not true.

Nowhere does it say that as a leader everyone has to perceive you as being infallible. No leader is infallible, and a leader who fakes confidence fools nobody.

So the work here is to:

  • Accept that uncertainty and risk is part of your job as a leader, just as they're part of life
  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable in the face of that uncertainty
  • Still bring everything you've got to those moments when you feel scared that it might all go wrong
  • And trust that you're good enough, no matter what happens

That's the application of confidence, and it's the lifeblood of leadership.

Faking confidence serves nobody. Not you, not your team, not your customers. Faking confidence creates no value, it doesn't honour how far you've come, and it has disdain for how far you can stretch.

Don't fake confidence.

Lean into the confidence you already have.

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