Most of us realise instinctively how important coming across as confident is in our journey through life. So, what do we often do? We act confident, or we act out through body language or verbally what we perceive confidence to be.

A short while ago I made the following comment in my journal about confidence: “I realised today, more than before that most human beings, if not all, are not nearly as confident as they project…” Think for a moment if you agree with this statement. Even Pansy Tlakula, CEO of South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission, who has several law degrees including one from Harvard, and sits on several organisations’ boards, agreed with this statement when I put it to her on the Leadership Platform radio show.

I believe the challenge we face is that in general there exist huge misunderstandings about what confidence is! When is someone confident? Are those individuals or leaders that outwardly come across as confident really confident? How does one really develop one’s confidence? Does the concept of self-confidence actually exist?

The Green Mile is a film that played on the circuit a while ago. I believe in this film is demonstrated effectively the essence of what confidence is all about. Tom Hanks is the leading actor and plays the role of a supervisor of death row in the prison in the 1930s.

Michael Clark Duncan plays the role of a huge black man on death row that is a falsely convicted killer of two young girls. He comes across as uneducated, shy, and lacking in confidence. It turns out that he has some healing power.

The wife of a senior correctional services manager outside the prison contracts brain cancer. Tom Hanks’ character and his team decide to secretly take the prisoner to the home of the manager, who is not aware of the prisoner’s ability, to try and heal his wife.

A scene unfolds where this so-called shy, uneducated, unsure man walks towards the front door of the house while the manager points a shotgun at him. The prisoner confidently moves forward until he is very close to the manager. He slowly and confidently takes the gun from him and says in a deep voice: “I just want to help”. He walks past the manager into the home while the wife screams and groans in pain in the background. The manager runs up from behind shouting at the prisoner to leave his house. The prisoner confidently and gently tells him: “You be quiet now”, and he walks up the stairs. Every one follows him. He heals the wife, and the story continues.

This is an excellent example of the principle that confidence is essentially about trust in processes (abilities, skills) that work. When this large 1930s black man moved towards those healing processes in which he had absolute trust, he suddenly came across as being outwardly confident. Those around him couldn’t do anything but follow him. He became the leader, even though the social environment at that time ‘logically’ did not provide for someone in his shoes to lead. Was he self-confident? No! Did he have trust in a healing process that worked in the past? Yes! The result? He came across as confident when trusting the process.

A person that is well qualified in the field of marketing, and has a great deal of experience in the same field will come across as very confident when he finds himself in the middle of a discussion on the topic of marketing. Is the individual self-confident? No! He simply has trust in marketing processes and principles, like the prisoner on death row had trust in a healing process. How confident will this same marketer come across if the topic of discussion changed to that of finance? Probably not as confident. The Charted Accountant will suddenly come across as more confident, because she trusts financial processes and principles.

There are so many individuals that are recognised by society as ‘confident’ and ‘successful’ leaders because of position or title and certain material possessions. Often these people are in fact confident in the context of a certain technical field of expertise – they have mastered principles and processes in for example law, medicine, engineering, business, and so on. The result is that they do become successful, but are they successful leaders? When one measures them outside of their expertise they are not always confident, successful or even happy. Examples of this are too many to mention. But I think of a very successful Attorney who’s home environment is in shambles; I think of a Financial Director who is in that position because of his expertise, but when it comes to people issues he fails dismally; I think of well known business individuals that are already in their third or fourth marriage; I think of highly profitable or successful individuals that are alcoholics; and so on.

I have come to the conclusion that you can only be profitable and happy overall in life if you develop confidence (acquire trust in principles and processes) that cover two other areas over and above technical – 1) people interaction and 2) life. You must acquire trust in principles and processes that govern interaction with people and you must acquire trust in principles and processes that govern life – “TiLi”.

Profitable and happy people who come across as confident are not necessarily confident themselves, or self-confident. They are often very aware of their weaknesses and shortcomings. But, they have confidence to engage people and to engage life, over and above technical confidence. Others look at them and see outward confidence, profitability and happiness, not realising that what they see is the product of someone that has acquired or is striving to acquire trust in universal technical, people interaction and life principles and processes.

You see, life is essentially about confidence. But, not all kinds of confidence will do. It requires a specific kind of confidence. In the chapters ahead I will demonstrate that real confidence is fundamentally about trust in universal people interaction and life processes that lead to profitability and happiness.

Where trust in such principles and processes dwindle, or in instances where these are not consciously known, situations may be perceived as complicated and confusing. The more complicated and confusing situations appear to a person, the more mistakes are made and the more stress is generated in his or her life – “TiLi”.

This article appeared in:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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