I was talking to people 'in the know' recently and it was categorically confirmed that we need to help some political candidates build confidence.
Shocked? I was too. I firmly believed that aspiring political candidates were just born, y'know like the Bono’s or Beyonce's of this world. That these people walked the earth, able to debate endlessly for hours, avoid answering the difficult questions, schmooze wealthy investors out of some capital and represent large groups of people - excellently. No, apparently sometimes this isn’t innate and that as a voter makes me a little bit happy.
It plays into the idea - nay, fact, that politics is for everyone, not just those we think already fit the bill. You have to put in work! So, how can an ordinary individual build the confidence to lead like Macron or be bullish like Trump? We have some tips, read on if you’re brave enough.
1. Try hard
Ok, to tap into your confidence, you’re going to have to try. Remember being confident is strictly a mental thing. You have to work at it. Put yourself in positions where you need to stand up for yourself, talk to lots of people or perhaps become a figure of authority. There are opportunities in everyday life to exude confidence, it might be as simple as being the first person to talk in a meeting or doing Karaoke without feeling embarrassed. Confidence can be built up incrementally, it only seems stupid if you don’t try hard enough.
2. Solidify your views
As a public figure, your views and stances on contentious issues are going to be public knowledge. So, if your electorate is going to know your feelings on a particular matter, you better know them too. This will leave you open to attack by the opposition but only by knowing your opinions can you stand by them and defend them appropriately. Run through all this with your team and make sure your electorate know that like with all issues, you are open to change.
3. Gives yourself a chance by practicing
Everyone feels more confident when they feel prepared, that’s why people practice speaking out loud, singing, acting etc. If it takes 10 years to become an expert in any given field, then 10 hours practice to feel like you are suitably prepared shouldn’t be too much to ask. If you are worried about speaking points or campaign issues, rehearse until they roll off your tongue.
4. Invest in your image
Ya, this isn’t where I tell you to revamp your wardrobe or anything but this is where I tell you to find your “look”. I love that today, a power suit doesn’t equal female politician, just like the crisp shirt doesn’t equal successful businessman. We’ve evolved and I’m thankful for that. Wear what helps define you, people have acquired statement looks and why should this rule be different for our politicians - remember we want confident individuals, not an army of blazers. A rise in young people running for office should see the dress code transform, not relax but transform!
5. Acknowledge your weaknesses
Being confident isn’t about being untouchable. We are more and more aware of the fragility of people in today's society so appearing humble and informed is far more appealing than seeming like you've got it all figured out. If you are a new and young candidate then you will lack experience, you can't dispute that, but use it to your advantage. Acknowledge that you will be learning as you go and this will benefit your electorate as you are free from any legacy issues. A fresh outlook is always appreciated in politics. Once you have the backing of your voters it will be easy to be a confident candidate.
Remember that you can’t feel what others are feeling but you can try and appreciate it, and look at things from their point of view. As a politician you will be asked to do this regularly, your voters will need you to do this. So empathize, put yourself in their shoes and thus, become a better representative, a more well-rounded individual and ultimately, closer to your electorate. I always feel more confident talking to a group of people if I can see where they are coming from, the problems they are encountering daily, it makes it all a bit more real. The take-away from this point is that the audience, be they voters or TV viewers watching you during a live debate can see that you are trying to understand them more.
7. Ensure your team are realists
Building confidence can seem like a solo effort but if you bolster yourself with a solid team who will be honest with you and keep you grounded, you will have no problem conquering the polls. No, you don’t need a team to feed your ego, you need a team who will tell you the truth, and by having an honest dialogue going amongst the team, you can really start to grow. Forget the jargon that we see online about mantras and talking to yourself in a mirror, set up a team you trust, but a team who won’t spare you the hard truths. Leave the BS at the door, we have enough FAKE NEWS in the political sector.
8. Continue to evolve
If you ignore all the other steps on the road to a more confident you, please take this one with you; educate yourself continuously. There is no final destination to confidence. Confidence occupies areas, want to be a politician who is particularly strong in local issues? Go talk to locals. Want to learn more about Economic policy in Europe? Start reading up on some relevant financial forecasts. As a politician, you need to be willing to learn so you can offer an insight into other areas. Paths in political life don’t tend to be linear.
9. Fake it until you make it
Lastly, the most obvious, know that you belong. Nobody is entitled to a position in political life. This always comes up when talking about the gender imbalance in politics. Why do women feel less able to lead? Society has to be partially to blame but we need to lay blame at our own doorstep too. It’s time to start owning the opportunities we get, shatter the glass ceiling, go toe to toe with every other person in the space and lead from the front. Easier said than done? Fake it, nobody is ever going to be 100% comfortable but you have to believe that will come in time.
Hopefully, these 9 steps will make your candidacy a bit easier to navigate. We always say to start early and talk to as many people as you can. Sometimes that’s all it takes to turn a candidate into a really great candidate.
Make sure to check out our Campaign Blueprint section to get more useful resources for running your first campaign here.