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The One Thing All Good Leaders Must Have (And Most Don’t)


Written by Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo

Confidence is a word often used to describe strong leadership. But in working with clients for over 20 years, I have come to find there’s something even more important. When I coach executives, present keynotes and moderate workshops, I am struck over and over by the importance of something deeper: self-worth.

Self-worth refers to how you view your sense of worth or value as a person, and it impacts every interaction you have. Self-worth presents itself as conditional or unconditional.

Most people in our society tend to have conditional self-worth. Conditional self-worth means “I believe in myself IF…” As in: “I believe in myself:

IF I win this argument.”

IF people agree with me.”

IF people look up to me.”

IF I have a certain title.”

IF I look a certain way.”

Leaders with conditional self-worth may appear confident, but the quality of their sense of worth makes them rather poor leaders. For example, leaders with conditional self-worth operate from a win-lose position. So they believe, “if I win then you lose” and “if you win then I lose.” They are in constant competition not only with another business or brand but within their own team and company. They view other people’s successes as indicative of their own failures. They’re more likely to criticize the people who work with them and point out what they do wrong as opposed to highlight and support what they do right. They view differences of opinions as a threat to their ego. As such, they create an environment where creative ideas are not shared. And feedback from others is interpreted as an insult or threat, rather than a constructive way to improve. Not necessarily the kind of leader you want to have in your organization.

In contrast, people with unconditional self-worth believe in themselves based on their values and strengths. They’re very comfortable with who they are and, as a result, very comfortable with other people’s differences. Instead of having the need to be better than someone else, they accept other people for who they are. In fact, I do a lot of diversity training in organizations, and I can tell you that you cannot create an environment that is truly open to diversity unless you address conditional self-worth.

Leaders with unconditional self-worth and operate from a win- win position. They want to succeed and they want to see the people around them succeed. They operate on the notion that a rising tide lifts all ships. Leaders with unconditional self-worth highlight the positives in others, and they welcome feedback. They possess a mindset based in the spirit of continuous improvement, “I’m good and I can keep getting better.”

Confident leaders can have conditional self-worth, but they lack the mindset to be a truly good leader. The key is really to enhance and embrace unconditional self-worth. And the beauty is it’s a very teachable skill. As a coach and a speaker, I teach people how to cultivate their unconditional self-worth.

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