“I would not have done anything in my life if I had waited until I was confident I could do it. I just choose courage because there are great things that need doing in the world. I start with courage - not confidence - and I find the confidence through doing.”
Halla Tómasdóttir, successful entrepreneur and former Icelandic Presidential candidate, became CEO of The B Team last year. Since then she has been working with our group of global leaders to mobilise the private sector on everything from climate change to human rights, good governance to gender balance.
We were fortunate for Halla to join us at a recent Virgin Unite gathering. As well as sharing her story, she made some fascinating points about imposter syndrome, the internalised fear that you don’t belong, aren’t good enough and will be exposed as a fraud. Halla has suffered from this, especially when she ran for the Presidency. “Who am I to run for president?” she asked herself.
But Halla has learned to harness those fears as a positive. “I found a better question: ‘who am I not to serve?’ If you can, you have to dare to lead. I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life if I turned away, so I did it with courage but not confidence.
“We are not going to do enough that needs doing if we wait until we are confident,” she said. “We are better served by healthy self-doubt. We all have it and it’s okay, if we embrace our voice and our values and don’t let self-doubt overwhelm us.”
I have certainly felt like this myself as I have entered new industries and tried new things over the years. What did I know about running a magazine when I was a teenager? Could I really manage a global record label? What on Earth was a hippie like me doing starting an airline? Was I crazy trying to fly a balloon around the world, or build a business to go to space? But I’ve always believed in challenging myself, and think we all do our best work when we take chances and stretch ourselves.
This is the case in the Virgin Group, ever since our Virgin Records days, when I would promote the second in command in each new label division to run a new division. Promoting people into positions of responsibility that challenge them may mean they fall flat on their face – but at least they will be moving forward. In my experience, when you trust somebody and give them a chance, they will grow and thrive.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary. But that fear isn’t an excuse for avoiding it. Halla had a beautiful phrase to describe this: “Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is feeling fear and doing it anyway.”
Halla had less experience, less money, less media exposure, but ended up neck and neck with the frontrunner for the Presidency. She eventually finished as runner-up – luckily for all of us at The B Team!
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