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Why ‘fake it till you make it’ actually works

November 20, 2014, 2:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of China Gorman

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Career-wise, is it more important to be smart or confident? is written by China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work Institute.

You can be the smartest person in the room, or the world, for that matter, but you’re never going anywhere without confidence. Yes, it’s important to be able to do your job well, and intelligence is never an optional extra, but confidence – that fundamental belief in your own abilities, is critical to your success. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?

Early in my career, I struggled with the same insecurities as everyone else, silently fearing that my lack of experience would bring about some embarrassing failure or missed opportunity. Then, a friend gave me the advice to stop worrying about invisible problems and “fake it till I make it.” And I did. Best of all, my new mindset worked. I believe the reason why the “fake it to make it” concept works is because minimizing weaknesses and maximizing strengths is a proven confidence-builder. By shifting my focus from fear of failure to faith in my ability to perform well, I gained the experience I lacked and built up my confidence at the same time.

Of course, lack of confidence is not a malady that plagues only the young and inexperienced; it rears its slumped shoulders whenever new challenges emerge or a project we led didn’t quite reach the stratospheric levels of success we’d hoped. What to do? Keep the faith. Remember that as a leader, your people take their cues from you. If you are tentative and insecure, they will be, too. Conversely, if you are confident and positive about the challenges your team faces, they will be, too. The trickle-down power of your confidence in yourself – and in them –will ultimately lead your people to better performances, boosted morale and more successes than failures. So be confident, it’s the smart thing to do.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Career-wise, is it more important to be smart or confident?

Why confidence trumps smarts by Liz Wiseman, President of Wiseman Group.

Humility is the best kind of confidence by Christina Smedley, Vice President of Global Brand and Communications at PayPal.

Confidence is the “golden ticket” by Sallie Krawcheck, Chair of Ellevate Network.