Worthy leaders believe in their ability to deliver on something bigger than themselves and to impact positively on the lives of others.

In the two decades I have been working with leaders, I’ve collected 360-survey data on thousands of leaders, their capabilities and their impact. Here are the top strengths and challenges of 10,000 leaders anonymously scored by their raters in rank order.



Results Focus Developing People
Problem Solving Conflict Resolution
Strategic Focus Innovation and Change Management
Decision Making Managing Performance
Focus on Quality Developing Trust
Customer Focus Celebrating Success
Teamwork Influencing & Motivating People
Accountability Developing Self

However, in my coaching conversations with leaders, I discovered a different perspective: a consistent, significant cause of anxiety and challenge for leaders relates to worthiness. A surprising number who are working under pressure in constantly changing circumstances are self-critical and harbor secret, strong doubts about their capacity to engender and sustain trust, and their ability to reliably deliver on their own — and everyone else’s — dreams. What really grabs my interest is their coexisting desire to be worthy; to make a contribution.

The dance between self-doubt and certainty

If you are a leader, you might relate to three questions that I hear from my coaching clients and in YPO forums:

  • Do I have what it takes to be a leader?
  • Am I a worthy incumbent or would someone else do a better job?
  • How can I contribute and leave a worthwhile legacy?

Matthew (for purposes of this article) relates to all three. He is the youngish CEO of a massive global technology business. He has been there since the beginning and, in its 21st year, the company turned a USD1 billion profit. You might imagine that Matthew would be elated about the incredible results. However, he tells a different story…

“I am waking up in the middle of the night gripped by an anxiety that I am not the right person to take the company through the next transformation. I know there is going to be a major disruption and maybe we should be investing in developing artificial intelligence and robots. The question of whether I should find someone else to take over is constantly on my mind.”

Even if leaders look as successful as Matthew, there is a habitual dance between self-doubt and certainty for any leader, and success comes from drawing on the benefits of both states. It is limiting to begin the leadership journey with too much certainty, as inevitable challenges will result in disappointment. But too much self-doubt can be paralyzing.

Creating a healthy balance

Although we change as we journey through life, our inherent worth remains constant. Our worth is not a reflection of what we do or achieve but who we are, a unique human being. Unfortunately, we become disconnected during stressful times, with our worth and we become self-doubters.  In contrast, when faced with threatening situations, self-believers recognize that their personal response to significant stressors is in our control.

Self-belief is an unassuming, calm, accurate understanding of one’s wherewithal to meet current and future challenges. I often use the metaphor of a tree that withstand storms without being broken. The tree will sway and bend, but its deep roots keep it stable.

Our self-belief can play the same role as it is our unique wellspring of personal truth, and it nourishes resilience. You can access this remedy for self-doubt and fear of failure regularly and effortlessly and call upon it whenever you feel unhappy with your performance. And the good news is that the practice of self-belief can be taught and mastered.

RELATED: How to Become a More Gracious Leader

Unlocking your leadership capacity

If you are questioning your worth, try reflecting on these 6 questions:

  1. Do I believe in me?
  2. Will I back myself?
  3. What is my track record of success?
  4. What are my stand-out strengths?
  5. Am I too focused on limiting self-beliefs, instead of what needs to be done and what matters?
  6. Am I optimally equipped and supported for current and future challenges?

Being a self-believer unlocks your leadership capacity. Increased confidence provides the resilience to meet existing and future challenges. The world needs more worthy leaders whose efforts are focused on making a constructive contribution, beyond their own ambition.

Any one of us can choose to become a worthy leader. You can choose to believe in you and your worth. If you truly believe you can, you truly can.

Graph Source – Full Circle Feedback PTY LTD