Why Do Women Leader Lack Confidence, and What Can Be Done About It?
Many books and articles coming out about women’s leadership lately have discussed women’s lack of confidence. Sheryl Sandberg talks about it in her wonderful book, Lean In, as do Katie Kay and Claire Shipman in their recently published article, “The Confidence Gap,” which they published in April in The Atlantic. Their article explores many possible reasons for this lack of confidence in women, from hormones to social conditioning. But they question these outside factors, pointing out that even hormones change with behavioral changes. At the end of the article they conclude: ”Almost daily, new evidence emerges of just how much our brains can change over the course of our lives, in response to shifting thought patterns and behavior…What the neuroscientists call plasticity, we call hope.”
I couldn’t agree more. Confidence, like everything, comes from thought. But trying to think positively, or faking confidence, doesn’t work, as Kay and Shipman point out. What is it that actually makes people confident? The answer may surprise you – it’s not thinking about yourself at all.
People who perform at high levels in various fields talk about this, saying that when you’re ‘in the zone’ or ’in flow’ your awareness of yourself becomes background, and your awareness of a flow of thought arising in the moment becomes foreground. That’s when you go beyond what people normally think of as confidence, into a state of mind that allows you to access high quality thinking. It’s a natural state that people recognize instinctively, where you know to trust the thoughts that arise in the moment. Experience bears it out – when in this state of mind, people consistently perform at higher levels than normal. Understanding the inside-out paradigm of life allows women leaders to experience this state of mind on a regular basis, and thus become naturally confident leaders.