New leaders emerge. What builds confidence in one’s own competence? Network? Knowledge? Skill?

It was a question which was debated last week during a dinner discussion with three MDs. Interestingly all the MDs felt that the answer lay with network, that the strength of one’s own network provided a consistent source of friendship, informal knowledge share and communication which would naturally lead to growth in one’s confidence.

They went on to argue that it was one of their frustrations, that not enough people spent time building a real network today as it was arguably one of the most important assets that any aspiring executive and leader could possess. It led onto an interesting discussion as how the false perception of networking had only served to weaken emerging leaders who had spent much time on their skill development but not enough on their professional network.

An alternative view was posed which is also worth consideration.There are many who believe that knowledge builds confidence as it allows a stronger understanding of pressurised situations and potentially good decision making under pressure. Of course, this is only true, came the counter, when the mindset of the person is also well developed and calm.

EP is often asked why we did promote and advocate the use of sports players in business a few years ago. The answer always lay in a number of key factors. An understanding of teamwork, values and communication but maybe the primary reason was understanding that top sports players are mentally well developed in how they are able to manage adverse pressure situations. If one watches the top sports players today, their understanding of all that is going on around them is immensely impressive. They understand the need for control, behaviour and calm under pressure. It is a craft which many in business could learn from.

The debate with the three MDs naturally led to the question of whether leadership is really all about character?

The answer was naturally in the positive as it takes character to build a strong network, build knowledge, skill and have the ability to face up to pressure. One commented that they had been struck by how many leaders were not visible in the heat of the pandemic and how many did face the moment and stand tall, acting if nothing else, as a source of strength and reassurance for others.

It was also commented that many more female leaders were rightly emerging at this time as cultures had tired of the traditional alpha and wanted a more compassionate approach which did listen. It was felt that many company cultures need a more compassionate approach as they rebuilt and that many employees needed reassurance that some of the leadership ways of old were becoming exactly that; traits of the past.

The post pandemic market will see many new leaders emerge to replace those of the last decade. The rising talent today wanted to see leaders who do understand a wider context than simply shareholder value and profit. There needs to be a focus on environment, on society and on allowing cultures to once again build strength in shared values.

It was argued that the industry had gained from a stability in leadership over the last twenty years when the same people stood at the front but that this would now change, that there will be a new wave of leaders coming to the fore with new visions.