Building Self-Belief to Improve and Sustain Leadership Performance 

2 May 2024

As a leader, once you have accepted responsibility for authoring your own story it’s then about having belief in your ability to realise your dream. In other words, if self-reliance is the most important emotional competency for building your sense of independence, then self-belief is the energy that fuels your activity.  

Your ability to perform consistently under pressure and scrutiny depends on the strength of your convictions – particularly those about yourself. This means that you need strong levels of self-belief. You need confidence in your judgement and be willing to back yourself, putting yourself on the line to achieve your objectives.  

A strong sense of self-belief enhances your capacity to take responsibility and make difficult decisions. If you think about your professional or personal life, you’ll find that the areas in which you experience the greatest sense of power and satisfaction are the areas in which you have the greatest amount of control, or the ability to exert influence over what is going on. Genuine self-belief comes from deep inside yourself. It determines how you feel, think, motivate yourself and behave. So, where do you get it? There are four main sources:  

1. Mastery  

The first source involves mastery experiences. Each success you experience builds and strengthens your self-belief. The renowned psychologist, William James, once commented “there is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking”. So continue to sharpen the picture of the leader you aspire to be and focus on it daily.  

2. Modelling 

The second source of self-belief is modelling.  Seeing people similar to yourself succeed by sustained effort increases your belief that you too possess the capabilities to master similar skills and challenges. How often do you compare yourself with others and find yourself evaluating your own achievements in light of the choices and achievements of others? Select some key people who you consider to be high performing leaders and reflect on the similarities between yourself and them. What qualities do they have that you could adopt and incorporate into your leadership style? 

3. Mentoring 

The third source comes from the effect that other people have on you. The more you are receptive to trusted advisors the more likely you are to mobilise your efforts to develop the skills you need to succeed. Listening to someone you trust can be a beneficial way to cultivate your leadership brand.  

4. Mood  

The fourth source may be surprising to some. It comes from the feedback you receive from your emotional and physical experience. These experiences shape your mood and your mood affects your judgements about your personal effectiveness. A positive mood is contagious. It conveys a “can do” attitude and strengthens your self-belief. Ask yourself: ‘what lifestyle choices do I make that enhance my mood?’ Reflecting on what helps you and doing more of that will enable you to sustain a positive mood more often.  

Wrapping Up  

Building and sustaining self-belief is paramount for effective leadership performance. Self-belief serves as the driving force behind one’s actions and decisions, especially in high-pressure situations. It is nurtured through various sources: mastery experiences, modelling successful leaders, seeking guidance from mentors, and being mindful of how mood influences perception. By continuously sharpening the image of the leader you aspire to be, drawing inspiration from others, actively seeking mentorship, and fostering a positive mood, you can cultivate unwavering self-belief, empowering yourself to navigate challenges and achieve your goals.  

About the author:  

Joe Davis, CPsychol is a BPS Chartered Performance Psychologist and Senior Consultant at Ground + Air. He is a peer-reviewed author and enjoys sharing human performance insights to help people enhance the quality of their life. Joe is passionate about helping people thrive – both personally and professionally – and has worked extensively with high performing individuals, teams, and organisations from business, sport, and esports.