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When In Doubt… (#37)

The Confident Leader

Doubt is insidious. It creeps into a leader’s thinking like the thick afternoon fog that slinks in from the Pacific Ocean and so quickly passes under San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge covering everything that was so crisp and clear only hours before.

When in doubt, paddle out.
— Nat Young

This Week’s Edition

DOUBT: Uncertainty is fertile soil for seeds of doubt. The leader experiencing doubt hesitates to make decisions, and indecision kills leadership potential.

Clarify Your Thinking

“Our sales team needs to be inspired,” said Jeff, CEO of a business struggling to re-emerge from COVID-19.  Describing the current state of his team, Jeff said, “Robin, my team’s confidence is at an all-time low. What can you do to help inspire them? They’ve got serious doubts about:

·      The economy,

·      Their customers’ willingness to buy the product(s),

·      The business model,

·      Their own skill, and

·      The leadership of their team”


This is similar to conversations I am having weekly with leaders who are coming into a post-COVID business climate with teams who are less than confident.  


When I ask a leader how confident they are in an aspect of their leadership I often get a response like “fairly,” “somewhat,” or “sort of confident.” If we quantify those vague descriptions, 70% confident is 30% doubtful. Doubt changes a person’s performance every single time. No wonder Jeff wants to do something to buoy his team. 


Old Thinking: This doubt feels like a weight on my leadership. There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do. I hope it goes away.

New Thinking: This doubt is real, and I realize I need something more than inspiration to complete my confidence.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Jeff’s request for inspiration as a solution to doubt makes sense, “Robin, if you inspire the team maybe they’ll spark into action.” But Jeff knew, deep down, that inspiration by itself was not a cure all, it wears off too quickly.


Conventional wisdom for defeating doubt and increasing confidence is: fake it ‘til you make it; just look confident; and, mimic the actions of a superhero. Recommendations like these are leadership malpractice. They ineffective as mere actions-based remedies that do not address the underlying flawed leadership thinking. If a leader’s thinking does not change their leadership behavior will not change.


In the work that I have done with leaders over the years, I have made a new discovery – not all doubt is the same!  


There are five distinct types of doubt, each with its own specific solution. This discovery turns doubt into a useful leadership asset. When you know what type of doubt you are experiencing, you can identify the right solution and increase your confidence.


This is hopeful news that can be relied upon beyond merely seeking to inspire our way beyond our leadership doubt. Leaders no longer have to suffer aimlessly through their doubt or settle for living doubt. Each distinct type of doubt tells the leader the thinking that needs to change and the skill that needs to be developed.  


Boost Your Performance

Next week’s edition will delve into the Five Types of Doubt. Between now and then make a list of those things in your leadership you are currently questioning. This will begin to help you identify the doubt you might be experiencing – a first step toward determining your doubt type.

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you deal with doubt?  Let me know at


Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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