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Leading Beyond Self-Doubt

Self-belief is intrinsic to good leadership.

Stephen Light



Self-Doubt-in-Business-Leading-Business Leadership

Entrepreneurs are brilliant at taking ideas and turning them into reality. As a business grows, so does the need for people with skills in all areas. This is when most entrepreneurs require leadership skills to ensure people help the business thrive.

A great leader is someone who knows who they are. The single most limiting belief of any successful leader is self-doubt. One of the biggest fears that leaders in today’s modern world have is being discovered to be a fraud.

When I first heard this statement I was really intrigued. Was this the inner saboteur that most leaders carried around with them? Could this possibly be the driver of arrogant aggressive behaviours that are synonymous with “getting the job done?”

I am not suggesting that all leaders behave aggressively and arrogantly. My experience has shown me that when the pressure is on, most leaders resort to an aggressive approach to achieving results. I call this a positional leadership approach.

Positional leaders

Leaders who use the power afforded by their position and title to get people to do the job invariably have an inability to manage themselves. They lack a solid foundation of self-belief that drives a healthy esteem.

They doubt that a caring and firm assertive approach will get compliance. This doubt, coupled with many past experiences of aggression getting results, is the evidence they use to justify their approach.

Look at organisations you work in and have worked in. Notice who gets promoted and what type of behaviour is rewarded. I guarantee that it is mostly people who get results and that these people mostly get their results through people, not with them. Aggression and fear are the unwritten rules of the culture.

Symptoms include gossiping, poorly handled conflict, broken relationships, people’s contribution seldom recognised.

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You Can Be Inspiring Regardless of Your Leadership Style. Find Out More Here.


Servant leaders

Servant leaders are leaders who achieve with others. They know themselves and have a healthy appreciation and deep respect for the person they are. They have self-belief. Being challenged by others does not diminish them in any way.

They see challenges as a sign of a healthy work environment where people are allowed to explore and express their views.

Servant leaders encourage conflict and know they can manage it. They want people to get meaning from their work and know this is what will drive fulfillment and a commitment to business. This will have people bring their hearts to work.

This approach requires a leader who is willing to be wrong, willing to listen beyond the words and hear the request behind people’s challenges. These leaders lead beyond self-doubt.

The impact on you

My experience of coaching leaders is that they have a huge fear of being discovered that they actually don’t know how to lead people. This is what they tell themselves.

This limiting belief drives self-doubt and has leaders resort to positional leadership where a fear driven culture is created and authority is not challenged. This way they cannot be found out.

Your journey to being a great leader is one of self-discovery. The more you get to know yourself and love yourself, the more self-belief you have. Self-belief is the antidote to self-doubt.

Great leaders are ordinary people who have learned to genuinely care about themselves. They have no need for external validation as they have healthy self-esteem.

These leaders do the right thing versus what will have people like them or promote them. They can handle criticism and are flexible to changing where required. This is all possible, as they have invested in the most important person – themselves.

Growing self-belief

There are many ways we can grow our self-belief. What I have come to know is that the more I invest in myself, the stronger I am as a person. I trust myself and I trust in the process of life.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others – you are unique
  • Spend 10 minutes every morning and evening quietly focusing on your breath. This creates an inner space for self-management
  • Celebrate your achievements
  • Acknowledge your ‘failings’ and seek the lessons
  • Read and grow your knowledge and understanding of your area of business
  • Trust people by asking them “What do you think?” This will help grow humility.

The world needs leaders who care about others. We can only care about others and demonstrate this in leadership when we care about ourselves. The shift is from self-doubt to self-belief. The key word is self. Only you can give it to yourself.

Stephen Light is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, an Associate Certified Coach and an Organisational Relationship Systems Coach. Light assists people and teams to become aware of what is holding them back and then to become conscious and intentional about how they want to be in relationship with themselves and their teams. He helps businesses get teams on track, creating alliances that have teams work from a place of alignment versus the position of difference. He teaches people to understand who they are and why they behave the way they do. Light helps people become responsible and accountable for their lives and the lives of those they impact on. People Activ

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. bongani sibeko

    Oct 10, 2013 at 21:09

    Great article, indeed the world is in dire need of servant leaders, leaders who have identified their treasure to share with others.
    it is this treasure/gift that inspires such boldness and self-belief that secures and assures such leaders in their positions, they don’t feel threatened by anyone because they know their worth and value they carry.
    Thanks for your great insight on this topic Stephen!

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Want To Achieve Greatness? Force Everyone Out Of Their Comfort Zones

Diverse teams are better performing teams, but only when they are inclusive.

Rob Jardine




Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance.

Diverse teams are smarter teams. They have higher rates of innovation, error detection and creative problem solving. In environments that possess diverse stakeholders, being able to have different perspectives in the room may even enable more alignment with varied customer needs.

Being able to think from different perspectives actually lights up areas of the brain, such as the emotional centres needed for perspective taking that would previously not be activated in similar or non-diverse groups.

In a nutshell, you use more of your brain when you encourage different perspectives by including different views in the room. However, work done at the NeuroLeadership Institute has proven that this only works when diverse teams are inclusive, and this still remains a key challenge in business today.

When we consider the amount of diversity present in the modern workplace and the addition of more diverse thinking as a result of globalisation and the use of virtual work teams, it’s clear that the ability to unlock the power of diversity is just waiting to be unleashed.

Here’s how you can unlock this powerful performance driver.

The Social Brain

Despite the rich sources of diversity present in most workplaces, companies are still often unable to leverage the different perspectives available to them in driving business goals. Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience have enabled us to understand why. The major breakthrough has centred around the basic needs of the social brain.

We have an instinctual need to continually define whether we are within an in-group or an out-group. This is an evolutionary remnant of the brain that enabled us to strive to remain within a herd or group where we had access to social support structures, food and potential mates. If we were part of the out-group it could literally have meant life or death. We are therefore hypersensitive to feelings of exclusion as it affected our survival.

The brain is further hardwired for threat and unconsciously scans our environments for threats five times a second. This means, coupled with our life or death need for group affiliation, we are hypersensitive to finding sameness and a need for in-group inclusion.

When we heard a rustle in a bush it was safer to assume that it may be a lion than a gust of wind. It is this threat detection network that has kept us alive until today. The challenge is that society has developed faster than our brains. In times of uncertainty we often jump to what is more threatening.

Some of the ways that this plays out is when we leave someone out of an email and they begin to wonder why they were left out. The problem is that it’s easy to unconsciously exclude someone if we are not actively including. The trouble occurs when we incorrectly use physical proxies to define in-group and out-group, as this is the most readily available evidence used unconsciously by the brain.

Barriers to Inclusion

A study done between a diverse group and non-diverse group demonstrates how this plays out in the work place. Both groups completed a challenging task and were asked how they felt they did as a team after the exercise.

The effectiveness of the team and how they perceived effectiveness were both measured in the study. It’s no surprise that the diverse team did better in the completion of the problem-solving task, but what is surprising is that they felt they did not do well. In contrast, the non-diverse team did worse, but felt that they had done well.

Working in a diverse team feels uncomfortable and that’s why we perform better. Discomfort arouses our brain, which leads to better performance. It feels easier to work in a team where we feel at ease in sameness, but in that environment we are more prone to groupthink and are less effective.

Creating Inclusion

We can’t assume that when we place diverse teams together we will automatically reap the rewards of higher team performance. As discussed, we’re hardwired for sameness and if we’re not actively including, we may be unconsciously excluding.

If we want diversity to become a silver bullet, we need to actively make efforts to find common ground amongst disparate team members. This in turn will build team cohesion and create a sense of unity, including reminders of a shared purpose and shared goals. Many global businesses put an emphasis on a shared corporate culture that supersedes individual difference.

It’s the same mechanism that is used in science fiction films that bond individuals together against a common alien invasion. It can also be used to describe why we felt such a great sense of accomplishment during the 2010 World Cup as we banded together as a nation.

We must also make sure we uplift all team members by sharing credit widely when available and recognising performance. The last thing we can do to further inclusion is to create clarity for teams. By removing ambiguity, we allow individuals to not jump to conclusions about their membership within groups and calm their minds so they can use their mental capacity to focus on the task at hand.

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To Get A Job Or Not Get A Job. What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Remember the days where if you went to school and studied a degree, you got a job and built a career that enabled you to retire comfortably? I don’t, in fact I’m not sure those days ever really existed. If they did, they are long gone.

David Wilson




Today STATS SA tells us only 1 in 3 of the youth in South Africa have a job, even worse still – 34% of graduates aged 15-24 are unemployed1. The bottom line is that there are not enough jobs to cater for every child that finishes school. Our children need to learn entrepreneurship. If we want a brighter future for them, we need to nurture, teach and develop the skills and behaviours required to create jobs of their own.

With no intention of knocking the school system it would seem for the most part it discourages entrepreneurial thinking on a fundamental level; it prepares students to become good employees. Tuck your shirt in, sit still, stand in line, do your homework, focus on the task, check this box, you get the picture. Three decades ago this may have worked but it won’t work when we are trying to teach our children to survive the forth industrial revolution and prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist!

It may sound like a cliché, but kids are our future. As a parent I believe one of the most important duties we have is to give our children the best possible start. We need to prepare them on how to live, survive and thrive in a world that is rapidly changing, mostly unpredictable and often unforgiving. This starts by identifying the skills and nurturing the behaviours that will give them the best chance for success.

Related: Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses

Teaching entrepreneurship prepares our children for the future

Entrepreneurship encompasses so much more than starting and running a business. It’s a shift in mindset, a different way of thinking. Entrepreneurship views problems as opportunities and fuels creativity in the pursuit of solutions. All these skills can be applied to life.

Successful entrepreneurs are resourceful, self-confident and tenacious. They are great communicators and marketers, good at identifying and understanding risk. They have learnt from failure and made mistakes. Entrepreneurs are financially literate, understand cash flow and how to manage money. Again, these are skills that every child and student can benefit from.

To make it in the workplace of the future you will need to be self-confident, innovative, creative, motivated and curious.

Employers will need to hire staff that have the creative ability to innovate and ensure the longevity of their organisations. Those people that show entrepreneurial flair will be in demand in a world that is ever and more rapidly changing.

Exposing our children to entrepreneurship, teaching them the fundamental skills and behaviours required to start a business, and letting them know it is a career choice should be a requirement in all schools and endorsed and supported by all parents.


  1. Youth unemployment still high in Q1: 2018

Read next: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

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How To, In Practice, Distinguish Between Executive, Non-Executive And Independent Directors And Their Functions

Learn more about the differences in executive and non-executive directors.






Definition of a director in terms of the Companies Act

Section 1 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 (Companies Act) defines a Director as “a member of the board of a company, as contemplated in section 66, or an alternate director of a company and includes any person occupying the position of director or alternate director, by whatever name designated”.

Powers of directors

Section 66 of the Companies Act determines that the business and affairs of the company must be managed by or under the direction of its board and that the board has the authority to exercise all of the power and perform any of the functions of the company, except to the extent that the Companies Act or the Company’s Memorandum of Incorporation provides otherwise.

The board of directors, for the first time in our current Companies Act has been assigned the legal duty and responsibility and play a very important role in managing the affairs of the company and making vital decisions on behalf of the company.

Related: What You Need To Know Before Transitioning From Business Owner To Director

Number of directors required on a board

In the case of a private company, or a personal liability company, the board must consist of at least one director and the case of a public company, or non-profit company, the board must consist of at least three directors. A JSE listed company requires at least four directors. The company’s Memorandum of Incorporation may however specify a higher number, substituting the minimum number of directors required.

How to distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors and their functions

A clear distinction is noticeable between the different types of directors in practice, even though the Act does not distinguish between executive, non-executive and independent directors.

The below table gives a clear understanding of the differences between executive and non-executive directors:

Executive directors

Non-executive directors

Member of the board of directors with directors’ duties.

Part of the executive team, as an employee of the company and generally under a service contract with the company. Not an employee of the company.
Involved in the day-to-day management of the company. Not involved in the day-to-day management of the company.
In addition to a salary, does not receive directors’ fees. May receive Directors’ fees, but does not receive a salary.
Shareholders are not involved in approving their salary packages. Shareholders must approve their fees by way of special resolution, in advance.
Employee entitlements apply, such as annual and sick leave. No entitlements apply.
Has an intimate knowledge of the workings of the company. They contribute to the development of management strategies and monitor the activities of the executive directors.
They carry an added responsibility. Entrusted with ensuring that the information laid before the board by management is an accurate reflection of their understanding of the affairs of the company. Plays an important role in providing objective judgement, independent of management on issues the company are facing.


Independent, non-executive director

An independent, non-executive director does not have a relationship, directly or indirectly with the company other than his or her directorship. They should be free of any relationship that could materially interfere with the independence process of his or her judgement and they do not represent the shareholders of the company.

An independent, non-executive director should be evaluated on an annual basis to determine if they are still considered independent.

Related: The Role, Responsibilities and Liabilities Facing Non-Executive Directors

The role of these directors

All directors should apply objective judgment and an independent state of mind, regardless of the classification as an executive, non-executive or independent non-executive director.

Executive directors may be appointed as non-executive directors on other boards if this does not influence their current position and is in accordance with company policy.

Before a director accepts the appointment, they should be familiar with their duties and responsibilities and be provided with the necessary training and advice.

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