Self Efficacy and its Role in Leadership

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are usually right.”  I love this quote by Henry Ford, which encapsulates the essence of a small thing with big impact in leadership – self efficacy.

Described as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”*, it is no wonder self efficacy is such a fundamental pillar of effective leadership.

People with a strong sense of self efficacy:

  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered.
  • Develop deeper interest in group activities.
  • Have a stronger sense of commitment.
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments.

People with a weak sense of self efficacy:

  • Avoid difficult tasks.
  • Believe challenging projects are beyond their capabilities.
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes.
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities.

So how do we encourage, nourish and sustain self efficacy – not only in our team members and colleagues, but most importantly in ourselves?

Self efficacy - The Leader's Digest

Here are 6 ways to build self efficacy:

1. Knowledge. Acquire sufficient knowledge. Learn to love learning new things. Regularly getting out of your comfort zone and into your red zone with your skill development is a surefire way to build self efficacy.  An executive coach can also help you to identify what areas you or your direct reports may need to strengthen to increase their knowledge.

2. Challenge your own negative assumptions. Begin by writing down the negative thought. Determine objectively whether there is validity to the statement. Then hypothesise without the assumption. What would happen if the assumption didn’t exist and how would that change your actions?

3. Do it yourself. There is infinite reward in “just doing it”, and action is often the best way to eliminate indecision and procrastination. The key is to do it with confidence, and this can only happen with the right skills and a positive mindset. As Napoleon Hill once said, “It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.”  

4. See how other people do things. Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery – it’s also a simple and effective learning technique. If you want to be the best, learn from the best.

5. Get encouragement. Positive reinforcement at early stages of mastering a new skill can help to build self efficacy. Remember the effect a few encouraging words had when you were learning something new as a child? It is as impactful as an adult.

6. Retrain and reframe. Our brain is a powerful tool in building self efficacy and our thoughts are pivotal here. Your beliefs, identity and the language you use on yourself will have an effect on your actions and the eventual outcome.

Only you have the power over the pictures you want to see, and the words you want to hear.

Every time you say “I can’t”, stop yourself and replace it with “I can”. If you are learning a new skill or facing a challenge, and find yourself projecting a picture of ‘failure’, stop. Replace it with a positive picture. There’s simple wisdom in the adage, “fake it until you make it”.

What tips do you have for building self-efficacy?

*Author Acknowledgement: Albert Bandura 

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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