Fake it Until You Believe it: Developing Your Leadership Presence!

Susan Manning
5 min readJul 9, 2021

Taming the Inner Critic

There is an old saying, “We are our own harshest critic.” Self-doubt and a general lack of confidence can hold anyone back no matter what their role is, but for HR Professionals tasked with creating a corporate culture centered on excellence, teamwork and the free exchange of ideas, listening to that inner critic can be disastrous to their self-confidence and career advancement.

I often ask both myself and my Clients ‘why do we give so much power to our critical inner voice?’ ‘Why do we allow it to speak to us more critically than any other person we might meet?’

Of course, a healthy dose of self-doubt can help us monitor ourselves and our behaviour but when our inner critic stops us from performing to our best, we know that we need to do something about it.

How do you perform to the best of your ability when the voice of self-doubt can be so deafening and how do you go about taming that inner critic?

The Importance of Believing in Yourself when starting a new Leadership role

Even the bravest people doubt themselves once in a while but don’t let the prospect of a new leadership role derail your professional inertia. Overcoming performance jitters and insecurities are all a part of your personal and professional growth!

When starting in a new leadership position, you will undoubtedly have reservations. You may even feel out of your depth. In order to be successful, it is essential that you believe in yourself. You have to foster the belief that your skills and experiences make you more than qualified to lead your team and make a difference to your Business Partners and the Organisation. Often you have been through an extensive interview process by Leaders who not only believe you are the right person for the job but they believe that you can do it!

The first step towards believing in yourself is finding your own voice and the aspect of your leadership style that makes you unique. Next, you need to start sharing your thoughts, ideas, points of view — free of hesitation!

Believing in yourself is the cornerstone of true leadership. Taking pride in your skills, experience, and perspective is crucial in eradicating that negative inner speech, clearing the way for self-confident leadership!

Overcoming your interior monologue and Believing in yourself

How many times have you listened to a speech and be moved to have an emotion you were not expecting? Speech has an immense effect on us. Words are not just words; they shape who we are, how we feel, what we do and what we are capable of doing.

Only you can make the decision of what type of words you use to speak to yourself. If you find yourself always being critical of your thoughts and actions, it will not be long before you become paralysed with the effect.

Use your internal dialogue to have a good effect!

Positive self-talk should be affirming and supportive which you do continuously throughout the day. Remember to speak to yourself with the same love, kindness and compassion you would speak to someone you love. Eventually, it will come naturally to you.

Challenge your negative thinking patterns

Is what you are thinking a fact or a story? It is very easy to believe something as a fact but when we challenge the ‘fact’ with follow up questions often what emerges is a story that we have told ourselves.

There are so many examples of this when we are in a new Leadership role especially when we are outside our comfort zone. Dedicating time for self-reflecting enhances the process of building our self-awareness which leads to self-confidence. Here are some guide questions to challenge your thoughts and identify is it a fact:

  • Are you exaggerating, over-generalising, catastrophising?
  • Are you jumping to conclusions by ‘mind-reading’ or ‘guessing’?
  • Is your blinkered thinking disqualifying the positives in your thoughts and actions?
  • Do your sentences include ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’?

It is not easy to become aware of your inner critical dialogue and you will miss automatic negative thoughts initially. Likewise, it can be even more difficult to differentiate between a ‘story’ and the true facts!

But with practice, you will start to catch the thoughts in time and it will become easier to spot them. With your growing confidence you will develop the internal power of thought to dismiss them.

Meditation can help

Meditation increases our self-awareness and the ability to be mindful. It has the ability to improve our perception of our reality — or what is a story versus fact. Developing the habit of meditation is the ideal practice to help get rid of the usual cognitive distortions and find the courage to see things how they really are without filters. Science also backs this up with evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) shows that, when practicing meditation that focuses on confidence and self-kindness certain parts of our brain get activated. This includes the likes of the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which are responsible for cognitive function and empathy in particular. Many meditation apps have guided meditations that focus on these specific areas.

If you don’t believe in yourself, any positive career development can feel like a mistake. Even if you know your job like the back of your hand, you need to practice confidence-building skills in order to truly believe in yourself. Think of yourself like a swan: gracefully sailing over the water, legs working furiously below the surface, just out of sight.

Finally, when I have been Coaching HR Leaders who are suffering a lack of confidence in their Leadership role I find that they tend to think confidence should come first, then action.

Whereas the reality is that we gain confidence through action.

I encourage you to try action before you feel 100% ready and watch your confidence catch up!

Would love to hear how you manage that inner dialogue to build your confidence, please leave a comment and let us learn from each other

Susan Manning is an International Executive HR Coach for HR Professionals who want to succeed in their current role and be seen as a trusted advisor so they can progress in their HR Career. She has developed a free HR Career Assessment Wheel which you can access here that will give you an overview of your life and career. https://susanmanning.ie/hr-coaching-program/



Susan Manning

Leadership Consultant and Clarity Coach — Providing essential CLARITY for greater effectiveness in a chaotic world. www.susanmanning.ie