Is Self-Esteem Affecting Your Leadership?


Leadership is as much about emotions as it is about skills. You can easily gain a working knowledge of leadership and all the “actions” necessary to make you an effective leader by taking courses and by reading books.

However, knowing them and applying them are two different things.

Often, our personal leadership is affected, not so much by what we don’t know how to do, but by what we are unwilling to do. And being unwilling to do the hard things required of a leader is often caused by fear and lack of self-esteem.

Self-esteem has two components: It is made up largely of how we see ourselves and how we see others.

First, let’s look at how we see ourselves. – By definition, self-esteem is about how we esteem ourselves.  In other words, it is about how we see ourselves and feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror every morning.

Second, it is about how we see others. – But even that is really a reflection of how we see ourselves.  If we envision everyone around us as being smarter or better qualified than we are, then that is perhaps not a reflection of their skills being greater as much as viewing our own skills as being lesser.  Size is a relative thing.  And if we don’t feel we measure up, everyone tends to look bigger in our own eyes.

Self-esteem has an impact upon how we think, how we feel, how we perform, and our results. It is not a stretch to then say that if the results you are getting from your team do not match your expectations, then possibly the problem may not be with your team.  The problem may involve your self-image, your view, and your approach to leadership.

A strong leader must take a good look at their self-image and be introspective enough to consider how our behaviors impact our team.

The following behaviors just may be a signal that your self-esteem is preventing you from effectively leading.

You may have leadership self-esteem issues if you have difficulty accepting others’ ideas:  If you cannot see things from someone else’s perspective or if you systematically discount your team’s ideas you may have a self-esteem related problem.  This can quickly make you appear to your team as difficult, confrontational, stubborn, and lacking vision.

By doing things “your way” only, your team cannot research and implement new and possibly better ways of doing things.  However, an unwillingness to listen to new ideas coming from unexpected places will stifle creativity and prevent the infusion of new blood and new thinking in your decision process.

You may have leadership self-esteem issues if you are micro-managing: When you micro-manage, you are telling your team and everyone around them that you do not trust them. By watching their every move and monitoring that they are doing things “your way may be causing more problems for them than you are solving.

Leadership is about trust and it goes both ways. If you do not trust your team members, they, in turn, will not trust you. If they do not trust you, you must spend more energy to get their cooperation to move forward.

You may have leadership self-esteem issues if you are afraid of having employees that shine more than you do: Most successful leaders will tell you that their success has as much to do with their talents as the talents of the people around them. Good leaders find a way to be surrounded by people who are more competent than they. They do not feel threatened by others’ talents. In fact, they will encourage the people around them to make the best use possible of their talents, skills and abilities.

You may have leadership self-esteem issues if you do not delegate: An effective leader must be able to delegate. Once you decide to delegate a task, you also must be willing to delegate the decision-making aspect. However, you must be willing to shoulder the ultimate responsibility if it is not successful.

You must delegate the responsibility and the authority to execute the task, otherwise no one will be willing to make decisions, and you become the bottleneck in the decision process.

You may have leadership self-esteem issues if you need to show them that you are the boss: If you need to show “them” who’s the boss, by coercion or by threat, then you have lost the battle. You may get their compliance, but you will not get their commitment. Your team must  recognize you as the leader because of your leadership abilities and not because you are constantly reminding them.

A strong self-image and high self-esteem is not a guarantee of success as a leader.  But, low self-esteem will sabotage you at every turn.

Be strong.  Be of good courage.  You can be the leader that your team needs you to be.

Photo credit: Amy Wilbanks / Foter / CC BY-ND

6 Replies to “Is Self-Esteem Affecting Your Leadership?”

  1. These are great insights! I would add just one more symptom of low self-esteem…timidity and indecision. I have seen this derail many people with great potential and opportunity to lead an organization.

    1. Those are great additions. My problem is often finding ways of eliminating and reducing in order to not write Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” each time I write an article.

      1. There’s another book I haven’t read yet! I am “currently” reading about 24 books. That is ones that I have started and not finished. This trend of mine dates back to high school.

  2. Ya know the first paragraph reminded me of a book, a mentor gave me, as I began to lead a sales team. I had gotten so into “micro managing”, I was missing opportunities to lead. The book was “You cant teach a kid to ride a bike in a seminar”. No to self esteem, I think this points alot to my most recent post, that you need to lead your self before you can lead others. I find that my team, if built right and aligned, give me strength. You want to build a team that you would go to battle with, literally and metaphorically.

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