The Confident Leader
“The Constant Quest To be the Best Version of One’s Self.” Kobe Bryant
If you want others to follow you as an athletic leader, it’s absolutely essential that you be confident, both in your overall vision and the approach you take to making that vision a reality.
What exactly is confidence? It’s an inner belief that you have the ability to achieve what you set out to do. It’s the personal assurance that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to. It’s the feeling that nothing is too big or challenging for you.
But isn’t confidence something you’re born with?
Confidence is born out of action.
In other words, the more action you take, the more overall success you’ll have. The more success you have, the more confident you’ll feel, which will lead you to take more action.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs
This leads to more confidence, and this positive cycle continues.
Yes, there will be times that you fail. There will be times when your plans don’t work out and your best efforts fall short. There will be times when even your best-laid plans go to pieces. We all know as athletics leaders, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
In those moments, you’ll be tempted to give up. Your confidence will flag, and you may doubt your ability to accomplish things.
Avoid giving in to that temptation! If you want to be a confident leader, it’s absolutely critical that you keep taking action, moving forward, and striving for your goals.
Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
It’s the courage to continue taking action that makes for a great, self-confident leader. The best athletics leaders are inherently confident, and they’re confident because they’ve consistently taken action.
What does it mean to be a confident leader?
Confident leadership means tackling the difficult conversations and solving the hard problems in and around your team. These leaders don't necessarily like conflict, but they realize that working through conflict is sometimes necessary to solve problems and get results. From communities to organizations, a confident leader is a person who can shape and guide individuals while making decisions to keep the goal moving forward. Athletic Directors are visionaries, motivators and encouragers.
“As a former Athletic Administrator, I believe a valuable component of an athletic program is establishing equity for all athletic programs. When former student-athletes comment about the values they have learned, and the joy that they have had being a part of your athletic programs.” Chuck Van Hecke, Former Muscatine Athletics Director
Advice for the AD DNA Pool
Decisive - “Being decisive goes “hand in hand” with the decision making process. When making important decisions I rely on two factors:
- Gathering as much data and relevant information as realistically possible
- Making a decision that is always in the best interest of all students.
Making difficult decisions can be stressful and can impact adults you work with, like, and respect. I become confident and decisive when I know I’m making a final decision that is based on facts/data and is in the best interest of all students. Adults have to take a backseat to the students we serve. It becomes easier to be decisive when following these two principles of consistency.
“Do what is best for all students and you will never regret any decisions you make.” Mike Winker, University of Iowa Sport and Recreation Management Lecturer
“Decisiveness is the number one quality of a dynamic leader: their ability to communicate a decision with passion and integrity is an art form.” Farshad Asi
Bold - “It’s not about being spontaneous. It’s gaining confidence in your decision by looking at the situation, anticipating challenges, getting feedback and then making the decision or change. Then committing to that decision or change, being all in!” Zac Sinram, Indian Hills MS Athletics Director
Knowledgeable - “To be a great Athletic Director you have to be knowledgeable, energetic, and have a vision for the direction of your athletic department. These are the three skill sets of a leader that has the ability to move an organization. The ability to seek out Professional Development to assist you in your growth and development. Energetic- Bring the energy and your people will mirror it. Visionary- communicate regularly and loudly your positive vision of the future.” Leroy Lopez, Evergreen High School Athletics Director
Strong - “Strong enough to care. Strong enough to take the bad with the good. Interpersonal strengths are as important as physical ones. Be sure to work on both every day – as like physical strength, our mental acuities can decline when not ‘worked out’”. Dr. John Krogstrand, Director of Athletics, Omaha Public Schools
The Confident Leader - Borrowing Belief….
I did not become successful because I believed in myself, I borrowed the belief others had in me until I could believe in myself. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from many great people… In the athletic director community we continually borrow ideas, concepts, philosophies and best practices from our colleagues. In my role as an athletics director, the relationships I have built throughout my career have been instrumental in my professional development. I have learned so much through my relationships in the NIAAA and various state associations throughout the country and most recently the world with the addition of the NIAAA‘s international affiliation.
As an athletics administrator it is sometimes difficult to show vulnerability, as we feel we are on an island and as in the movie Cast Away, we feel that our only sounding board is our Wilson (Volleyball with a face). Many times throughout our careers as athletics administrators we doubt our abilities and talents. It is difficult to be vulnerable as an athletics director. This is why I share my journey. At times as an athletics administrator it is terrifying to admit we do not know how to deal with some of the challenging situations we are faced with on a daily basis.
Whether that’s with a parent, coach, student-athlete or fellow administrator. I only share this because I’m sure throughout your professional career there have been times that you may not have had the confidence to deal with some of the issues you’re faced with.
In writing this book I have had the opportunity to travel and speak with athletics directors. There is one constant that has been evident in all my conversations, and that is the desire of athletics administrators to continually improve, share, learn and grow to improve the lives of their student-athletes, coaches and their community. That constant ideal, “Borrowing Belief from others Until You Believe in Yourself”, resonates as we struggle to become confident leaders!
So many times throughout my career I did not believe in myself. As I reflect, I am reminded of my thoughts as a young AD, attending conferences and hearing other ADs. I always felt like “Wow, that AD really has it all together”. In reality, they struggle with all the same issues we deal with and we realize that we have such a huge network of like-minded leaders that share our vision for education-based athletics.
This is where I believe the benefit of surrounding yourself with the right people is imperative. Reaching out to other ADs and mentors for support and guidance has been pivotal to my thriving versus surviving as an athletics administrator. For me, these opportunities to reach out and find mentors have been instrumental in my growth. Finding others who care about me has been a blessing and I hope I can continue to share my journey in my belief in others to find success and happiness in this great profession of athletics administration.
I have been blessed to have mentors that have challenged me and encouraged me to continue to improve and develop my skills in athletics administration. Through this I have found a great calling to speak greatness to others.
My mentors showed so much confidence in me that it pushed me to grow and develop. They helped me just as coaches help their student-athletes reach goals. They pushed me to attain and reach goals that I never thought possible. Many times the growth was tough and it stretched me beyond my comfort zone but they continued to encourage me and believe in my abilities. My mentors continue to point out the impact I’ve had on my schools and continue to believe and support me until I have the ability to believe in myself. It is so important for us to find mentors and equally important for us to seek out mentees to impact. When someone you admire believes in you it is truly impactful.
I found throughout my career it is important to surround yourself with people who have a growth mindset and have characteristics you aspire to. I’ve been blessed to have so many impactful people in my life. Bruce Brown from Proactive Coaching always talks about the impactful relationships between coaches and student-athletes.
He encourages us to think back and think about why these people were impactful and important in our lives. It is evident that the bond that is created between coach and student-athlete is simply coaches building and borrowing their beliefs in their student-athletes’ abilities for success, based on the foundation of love.
I’m not quite sure at what point I started to believe in myself and the impact that I could have on the student- athletes and coaches I had the opportunity to serve, but what I do know is that throughout my career I’ve had to borrow beliefs from those who have believed in me. That is not to say that I still do not have self-doubt and that I do not struggle. But I continue to go back to those I know care about me and continue to borrow their beliefs in me until I can again find that belief in myself.
I encourage you to reach out and share your belief in others so that they might find success as CONFIDENT LEADERS!
About Scott Garvis
Scott Garvis has been a leader and innovator in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics development and fundraising for more than 25 years – as an athletics director, coach, association board member, adviser and editorial contributor.
Scott has a record of excellence as Athletics Director, Director of Activities and Assistant Principal, having led the athletics departments at six high schools or school districts in three states. He has achieved unparalleled success at all levels of high school athletics: large public school districts, a small public high school, a private school, and with state and national athletics administrator associations.