How To Move From Pathetic Pretender To Powerful Producer

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Producing great results consistently is hard. Producing great results consistently—and under pressure—is harder. It takes a great deal of confidence to pull it off successfully.

But confidence, it turns out, is only half of the equation.

In a previous article, I talked about the importance of confidence when producing under pressure. And it’s true. Confidence is a vital attribute when you’re leading a team (even if that team has only one member—you) through a high-pressure situation.

Confidence, however, is no guarantee of great results. In order to rise to the top of the pack, confidence has to be paired with something else.


A great leader—a great producer—has to have both confidence and competence if he or she is going to consistently produce under pressure. When you have both, you are truly a producer. But when you have confidence without competence, you’re just a pretender.

To produce under pressure, you need both confidence and competence. #ProducingUnderPressure Share on X

Do you know people like this? Even worse, have you ever worked for someone like this? If so, then you know the vicious cycle that takes place (for this example, let’s call the leader/pretender Bob):

  1. Bob cheerfully takes on a high-pressure assignment because he believes he is infallible.
  2. Bob’s team works their collective butts off to successfully complete the assignment in spite of Bob’s incompetence.
  3. Bob gets praised for once again delivering the goods.
  4. Bob’s confidence grows even more.
  5. Bob’s team grows more resentful.

As you can probably predict, this isn’t a sustainable model. At some point, Bob’s team will rebel. This rebellion will happen in one of two ways (and these are not mutually exclusive):

  1. One or more team members will decide that enough is enough, and they’ll (possibly subconsciously) sabotage the project.
  2. One or more team members will decide that enough is enough, and they’ll find another job with a leader whom they respect.

And that’s the real problem: respect. Or, rather, lack of respect. Because his or her confidence is so convincing, the pretender can fool people (both team members and others) for a time. Eventually, though, the truth begins to emerge. It usually begins with the team, when they start to realize that their “leader” has no substance. And the respect begins to erode.

A leader who doesn’t have the respect of his or her team is not a real leader. And while authority may come with the title, respect doesn’t. Respect must be earned.

Authority comes with the #leadership title, but respect must be earned. Share on X

So how do you earn respect? By having both confidence and competence. Either one alone won’t do it. It takes both.

Here’s the good news. It’s usually easier to develop competence than it is to develop confidence. You can read, take classes, learn from mentors, learn from your mistakes. There are lots of ways to get better at what you do. There are lots of ways to develop competence.

And, although confidence is a more complicated animal, it tends to increase as your competence increases.

Your confidence will increase when your competence increases. #leadership Share on X

So if you want to be better at producing under pressure, focus on getting better at the work you’re actually producing.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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