We have a secret to share with you. Not everyone is born with the confidence to get up in front of a room full of people and inspire. Not everyone is born to lead. In fact, most of the skills required to be an effective leader need to be taught or developed over time through practice and perseverance. And often it means learning from mistakes, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and getting right back on the horse.

If confidence doesn’t come naturally to you, there are some exercises which can help you thrive despite your fears or personal concerns. Do these on a regular basis, and soon you too will have people believing that your confidence comes naturally. Until then, we’ll keep your secret, and you can fake it until you make it.

Create a blueprint

It’s so easy to focus on the negative when things are not going your way. But instead of going into a negative spiral, put together a plan ahead of time, mapping out how you want to respond in turbulent situations. Think about these questions.

  • When you are confident, how will you act?
  • What will change between now and then?
  • What will you do differently? What kind of words will you use?
  • How will you come across to others?

Once you have your blueprint mapped out, you can start to put your plan into practice. After all, life isn’t about what happens to you but how you respond to it.

Practice Speaking

Remember that old ‘practice makes perfect’ adage that your mom or dad may have mentioned at least 100 times during your childhood? Well, it turns out it is true. The trick to coming across as confident is to practice any discussion beforehand. Whether you are speaking to a handful of people in your boardroom or talking at a significant external event, practice what you are going to say beforehand. Don’t be dismayed if it doesn’t sound perfect, that will come with time.

Start with the small tasks first

Overcoming small challenges can do great things for your overall confidence. So create a list of small tasks to stretch you out of your confidence zone. Arrange to have lunch with someone. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Join your local meetups to widen your circle and improve your leadership skills. Take up a new hobby. It doesn’t have to be much; but, whatever you jot down, make sure you do it! If necessary, give the list to a trusted friend or colleague to keep you accountable.

Record your voice

A big part of coming across as a natural leader is having an ability to project your voice with confidence. Want to see if your voice is on target? Try recording it.

I know what you’re thinking: I sound terrible when I listen to my own voice. No to worry. It doesn’t matter how you think you sound when you record your voice, studies show you process the sound differently than someone listening to you speak.

However it’s still helpful for you to hear if you are using lots of “ums” or speaking way too fast. Ask yourself, are you pausing enough? Is your speech clear? If you are too slow, you risk putting people to sleep and losing engagement with your audience.

Smile often

It may sound a little strange, but when we’re nervous we stop smiling. Smiling conveys confidence and also makes you appear approachable – both great traits in a leader. The truth is you’ll improve in the areas that you work on. And yes, that even means your smile. Practice smiling in front of the mirror, so your smile appears natural. Too forced and you may come across as a little overwhelming. When you smile as you communicate, people will be drawn to you and more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Record your body language

Utilizing body language in your communication is a big part of coming across as confident on the leadership stage. Any speech or presentation can be improved by appropriate body language and hand movements. Recording your body language will help you pinpoint those gestures which signify nervousness such as touching your hair or clothing, swaying back and forth, and highlight the ones that work to boost your verbal language.

Adopt good posture

When people slouch or slump they look unprofessional and nervous. Good posture, on the other hand, will make you appear confident and improve the tone of your voice. Keep yourself in check by holding your head high and rolling your shoulders back. Regular stretching or yoga exercises can be very beneficial in ridding you of poor posture habits  and improve the way you carry yourself.

Use positive affirmations

As Stuart Smally once said: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it people like me.” Telling yourself you are confident and successful can work wonders for your mindset. Use positive affirmations on a daily basis to boost your inner confidence so you can radiate that confidence from the inside out. While affirmations alone won’t make you a great leader, they can inspire you to try your best each day. Positive thinking can go a long way toward building up your self-confidence and encouraging others.

Mentor others

Mentoring an individual is a great exercise to build up your confidence. It puts you in the position of teacher where you can share your knowledge and wisdom with others. Also, when you help others succeed it not only feels good but will boost your communication skills. In the end being respected and valued is a huge confidence boosterhelping others to see you as a natural, self-assured leader.