Self-doubt is natural. It’s the wallowing in despair that you have to stop.
Leaders — especially young or new leaders — face stressful and unfamiliar situations every day. When the wrong decision could make or break a company, it’s easy to get lost in self-doubt and become paralyzed by indecision.
Founders can’t let that happen. Your team depends on you to provide consistent, positive leadership to keep the group pushing forward. That’s a lot of pressure, but with the right attitude, you can kick your doubts to the curb and become the innovative go-getter you truly are.
Follow these tips to stop doubting your ability to lead and start doing more for your business.
1. Adopt a growth mindset.
Rather than view your abilities as fixed, remember that you’re always growing and learning. Psychology Today recommends that founders who suffer from self-doubt focus more on learning and less on comparing themselves to others (or ideal versions of themselves). Not only will a growth mindset relieve you of your insecurities, but it could also help you develop skills to persevere in the face of future challenges.
2. Harness the adrenaline.
Your competitors are breathing down your neck, investors want faster returns and your biggest client isn’t sure about the future. Don’t let stress factors like these pin you down. Instead, channel that energy into productivity. What do these struggles tell you about the state of your business? What can you do to fix those problems? Break down big worries into actionable goals to lessen their power.
3. Accept fear (but don’t surrender).
In The CEO Report, Heidrick & Struggles learned that not only do most CEOs suffer from doubt, but the CEOs who suffer less doubt tend to lead their companies astray more easily. Understand that doubt is a natural part of the founder lifestyle, and get used to the nagging feeling that something could be better. That constant yearning for improvement separates successful founders from those who get comfortable too easily.
4. Forgive yourself quickly.
Maybe you made a mistake. You may have said something you regret to a client, missed a golden sales opportunity or set your product launch back with a major oversight. No matter what you did, your company can survive it — as long as you don’t dwell on the mistake. Give yourself some time (an hour for a small mistake, a day for a giant one) to sulk, then accept the misstep and move forward. Carrying the regret will only make your leadership — and your company — weaker.
5. Turn to mentors and friends.
Your team doesn’t need to know all about your deepest fears. Mentors, friends and family members, on the other hand, are fair game. Express your concerns to people you trust to avoid letting emotions well up for too long. These conversations can even help you discover solutions that you wouldn’t have considered if you’d tried to muscle through the problem alone.
6. Distinguish between what you do and who you are.
Even if you make a big mistake or carry self-doubt, don’t let failure define you. You worked hard and overcame numerous obstacles to get where you are today. One misstep — or even a series of missteps — doesn’t define who you are as a leader or as a person. When the pressure becomes too intense, spend a day on a favourite activity or at a personal retreat to remind yourself that you’ve earned the right to be confident.
7. Re-evaluate your objectives.
If all your answers are wrong, you might be asking the wrong questions. Rather than let the frustration of failure send you brooding, step back and assess the situation from a higher perspective. Have you become so focused on one part of your project that you’ve lost sight of your original goal? Reflect on your purpose to consider whether your effort is directed at the right areas.
Every entrepreneur suffers from self-doubt at some point. The best ones don’t wallow in despair, though — they rise above. With the support of friends and a refreshed perspective, you can survive the tough times and emerge on the other side as a more capable leader.