5 Tactics to Develop a Sense of Self-Efficacy in Leadership

I’ve had the opportunity to meet and discuss with many leaders in the past 20 years, especially during a study I conducted on leaders of various organizations and from different countries. I asked them the following question:


What made you develop your leadership skills while work colleagues did not do the same?


By analyzing their answers I was able to develop five strategies for anyone wishing to develop their leadership skills to convince a partner, an associate, colleagues, the banker or even clients.


Encouraging and reinforcing your sense of self-efficacy in leadership.

The practice of leadership is a progressive learning experience involving the improvement of one’s sense of self-efficacy. It can be developed by living different experiences, inspiring yourself from others, asking for feedback, imagining future successes and managing your stress in demanding situations.


A strong sense of self-efficacy can act as the motivation and perseverance you need when facing challenges and difficulties. It can be developed by:


1. Experimenting.

Individuals wishing to develop their sense of self-efficacy should start by experimenting and developing their ability to influence in situations of increasing difficulty. After succeeding in moderately difficult situations such as convincing a colleague or friend, the task becomes easier in more challenging situations such as convincing a boss or a banker.


However, what can seem an easy task for one can be more difficult for another and every individual must respect their own pace of progression. One should also be open to experiment and get out of their comfort zone. For example, if it is difficult for you to speak up in small and familiar groups, you should practice this skill and do it more often so that it becomes easier to speak up in larger and more challenging groups. Winston Churchill used this strategy.


The ability to speak up in familiar situations and groups reinforces one’s sense of self-efficacy. It can also be used to influence in more difficult environments. Failures should be seen in a positive and constructive light: instead of putting into question your skills or admitting defeat, you should acknowledge the progress you made by congratulating yourself for the efforts you made. The opposite of experimentation is choosing the easy way out of a problem.


In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to DARE! Dare to get out of your comfort zone, speak up, continue the project despite the deceptions encountered along the way, put forward new ideas and perspectives and persevere even when difficulties and refusals arise.


2. Observing and learning from others.

The second strategy to develop your sense of self-efficacy in leadership involves getting inspired by one or many role models. Observing successful people, how they face situations, their actions, behaviors and business strategies are important sources of inspiration.


You might select a leader belonging to a familiar environment such as a CEO or the President of a successful company; you might also find inspiration in the actions and points of view of leaders from other, less familiar environments.


You can observe other leaders directly. Your inspiration could also come from written works such as biographies. Mintzberg demonstrate that famous leaders are often inspired by the success stories and biographies of others. Another way to learn from others is asking questions, speaking with and learning from people who faced and overcame different challenges.


3. Seeking support in family and friends.

The support of friends, family, colleagues or other individuals can also develop your sense of self-efficacy. For example, a boss, colleague, friend or parent that notices and applauds the progress, abilities and potential of an individual can give them the moral support they need to pursue their objectives.


However, not all comments and feedback are positive. It is therefore important to distinguish between comments that should be ignored and those that can be used as potential solutions or approaches. In the interviews I conducted, some leaders even admitted turning negative comments into a stronger determination to succeed and prove them wrong!


4. Learning to relax before and during stressful situations.

Learning to relax by projecting yourself facing a stressful situation and being relaxed when facing such situations are two complementary approaches that can develop your sense of self-efficacy. Both approaches demand a great deal of self-control, however I personally believe that anything can be achieved with motivation and perseverance.


Some ways to learn to relax before and after stressful situations include: being optimistic and thinking positively, developing a constructive dialog and focusing on achievements rather than defeats.


5. Projecting yourself positively.

You can weaken your potential to succeed if you imagine yourself failing. Some studies have demonstrated that if an athlete is scared of falling or making a false move, they actually increase their chances of failing. Consequently, an athlete has a better chance of succeeding if they imagine themselves succeeding during their performance.


In the same way as athletes, individuals wishing to become successful leaders shouldn’t imagine themselves failing in the achievement of their objectives.



In my opinion, daring to speak and to act is the first step for those wishing to develop their leadership. One way to do this is increasing your ability to influence in different situations and environments, beginning with easy and familiar ones and moving to more challenging ones. Another way to influence discussions is listening first and then developing an argument that will potentially influence a stubborn person or group.


The ability to influence is also developed by living different experiences (successes, challenges, failures), learning with the support of others, projecting yourself succeeding and learning to manage your stress in difficult situations.


Edith Luc, Ph.D.


© 2011 Edith Luc, All Rights Reserved.

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