Andrew Carnegie

How can you have confidence it will work?

confidenceConfidence: I may not know how it will get done, but I know I will find a way to get it done.

Richard Bach wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1970 and has sold more than 60 million copies. It’s a short story about a seagull who has confidence that he could fly higher and faster than any seagull before. Through diligent experimentation and exhaustive practice, he learns the skills necessary to accomplish what he was confident he could do. The key to Jonathan’s confidence is revealed when an older seagull says, “You have less fear of learning than any gull I’ve seen.”

Here is how you can use the lesson on confidence shared in Jonathan Livingston Seagull in your leadership.

New project. You may have been successful before, but this project is different. The outcome is much more important than anything you have led. Where will your confidence come from? Your confidence comes from your past success not just in winning but in learning what needs to be done to win. Rely on what you already know, and work on where you need to grow.

“Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.” – Jack Nicklaus

New team. The most important aspect of a successful team is trust. Trust comes from the confidence that is built in your teammates’ ability to deliver on their commitments. You were a success in leading your former team and your new team has confidence in your ability as a leader. Begin by ensuring your team learns to trust each other through a series of quick wins before you attempt to lead them on a large scale deliverable.

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” – Lao Tzu

New company. You changed jobs and are working with people you have never worked with before. They may have read about your prior success, but few have worked close enough with you to have confidence in your leadership. The best way to build confidence in a new company is to build personal relationships. Get to know your peers and your direct reports first. Set up time to talk with your employees so they see the real you. People trust people, not just resumes.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Andrew Carnegie


Individual commitment to the greater goals.

Success - individual commitment to a group effortEveryone seeks to achieve success. Most people look at their own individual accomplishments to fulfill that desire. As the leader of a team, you are responsible for the success of the team. But it is the commitment of the individual that makes a team successful. It is therefore important to understand how you can achieve success for your team through the individual success of your team members.

Individuals focused only on their individual success may not be applying their talent to the tasks that will generate the most success for the team, and hence for them in the long run. While each person should use their talents to their fullest extent, long term success comes from not just focusing on individual success, but on how individual talent can be used for the success of the entire team.

Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”– Vince Lombardi

Here are three areas for leaders to focus on when it comes to individual commitment to team success:

Explain the definition of team success. If you want your team members to have a commitment to something bigger than themselves, you have to describe what that team success will look like – in a detailed and vivid way. You are going for an emotional connection to the outcome. Something that your team members will be proud to be part of. Something they can visualize.

“Every well built house started with a definite plan in the form of blueprints.” – Napoleon Hill

Explain how the individual commitment will benefit the team success. Now that your team has a picture of the team success in mind, they need to know what part their individual talent and success will play. Your team members need to feel that their contribution is key to the ultimate team success they now envision. The team needs them to be individually successful as they do their part.

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth

Explain how everyone on the team will play a role in the team success. Picture of team success – check. Understanding of how what I do contributes to the success – check. Now comes the part that sometimes gets left out – how is everything else going to get done if I don’t do it myself? It’s not enough to just explain the total picture and the individual team member’s part, leaders must lay out the entire plan. Successful individuals want to know how the piece before them and after them is going to be successfully done so the team success will come.

“I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” –Mother Teresa

It is only through the joining together of individual talents that we can achieve beyond our individual abilities. As Andrew Carnegie said, “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to achieve uncommon results.


Words from leaders only work when they are connected to actions.


It’s true that great leaders are great communicators. You have to connect with people to share your vision. But words will only take a leader so far until actions that back up the words have to kick in.

Here are three thoughts for leaders on the importance of actions in addition to words:

Should, could, or would don’t equal did.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Talk doesn’t cook rice.” You might be the most talented speaker ever, but unless your words lead to actions in you or in the listener, not much happens.

Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold – but so does a hard-boiled egg.

Inspiration doesn’t always proceed actions, but some action always proceeds more actions.
Most people imagine that history’s greatest composers were overflowing with inspiration and simply wrote music after they were inspired. Musicologist Ernest Newman tells us a different story, “Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.

If you want to be inspired then get to work. The actions you take will inspire more action.

In the choice between say and do – do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Your actions speak so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Of course people hear your words, but they feel your actions and that drowns out your words, positively or negatively.

So given the chance to influence people through your words or through your actions, focus on your actions.

As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” – Andrew Carnegie

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