The 2017 election: Why confidence is so important in leadership

With the election coming up this week and a few people yet to decide who they are voting for, the question of who will make the best leader for the country is on a lot of people’s minds. The voting population is usually split into those with a fixed alliance that stays the same from election to election, and those who try to weigh up changes in policy, leave it to the last minute, and then make a decision based on who makes them feel the most confident.

Politics and policies are complicated

Most people don’t bother trying to understand all the intricacies and variables. More often than not manifestos are lists of broken promises and people have difficulty believing them. In the end it can be an easier heuristic to evaluate a party’s leader, core values, and reputation. Consequently a lot of decision making will be based on unconscious bias, feeling and emotion – who makes us feel most confidence – rather than rational evaluation.

Confidence inspires confidence

In hard or uncertain times people want to be guided by a leader who projects the most confidence. Leaders need the confidence to make decisions and convince other people of them. We like this quality in a leader because it’s calming. A leader who shows uncertainty and anxiety will also make us anxious. We want to follow a leader whose decisions we feel are safest.

The confidence fallacy

However the ability to self-appraise and question your decision is a vital characteristic of intelligent people. Blind confidence is counterproductive and irresponsible. But leaders are required to be confident even when they feel anxiety and doubt. This is where basing confidence on someone else’s confidence is a flawed decision making tool – as we know politicians are humans and capable of making mistakes too.


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