Despite the current popular idea that the sciences are the key to the future wealth of individuals and nations, we very definitely need the arts as well. Now, the world is full of artists, except the vast majority of them are what are politely termed con artists or, by their other and perhaps more accurate name, confidence tricksters.
by tim middleton
Such a person has been defined as “a person who sets out to defraud or deceive, cheat or trick people by persuading them to believe something that is not true; a person adept at lying, cajolery or glib self-serving talk” — an actor (an artist), in other words!
The biggest problem that this world faces is not a lack of confidence in leaders, but a lack of confidence that leaders at all levels have in themselves. Why do many preachers and prophets have to ask their audience continually, “can I have an ‘Amen’?” They should have enough confidence in their beliefs that even if people spoke out against them, they would still stand by their words. Why do schools have to offer scholarships or other financial inducements to attract parents to send their children to that school? They should have enough confidence in what they offer that people will do all they can to send their child to that school. Why do politicians have to bus in supporters, rig votes or apply violence in order for them to win elections? They should have confidence in their own policies that voters will recognise the value in voting for them. Sadly, leaders are not trained in confidence — their confidence is misplaced in popularity, money, status, connections or strength.
The sad reality is that many leaders in our world are actually con artists; they lack confidence in their own position. They fear that folk will not follow them. They fear that others will take advantage of them. They fear that others will take over from them. Rightly so, too! We need to change that.
We need to equip our youngsters to have confidence in who they are. Many life coaches, no doubt, will stress this point by urging people to have self-esteem, but even that is insufficient. The confidence we need with regard to who we are is actually found not in self-esteem but in “others-respect”. Our self-esteem will be actually seen in the way that we treat others, in how we are open to others, not by how we view ourselves. If we have to push ourselves forward consciously all the time, arrogantly, we reveal we do not have confidence in who we are. We need to think less of ourselves, not more.
Secondly, we need to equip our youngsters to have confidence in what they think, so that they stand up for their principles, not for the prize or popularity. They must have confidence to admit their mistakes or accept that others may be better. They must have confidence in what they believe is right for all, no matter the cost or consequences. Confidence is closely related to consequence — confidence means we will accept the consequence, whether in our favour or not, without question or complaint, knowing we have followed what we believe is right. Too many leaders cannot do that; they are not confident that others will choose to follow them.
Thirdly, we need to equip our youngsters to have confidence in what they do, not in what they can get away with. Many leaders “defraud or deceive, cheat or trick people by persuading them to believe something that is not true” — “persuading” being an euphemism, perhaps, for all sorts of different means including bribery, bullying, blackmail, silencing, demanding, forcing, manipulating, undermining, accusing, planting evidence, engineering their “victory”.
Such leaders do not have the confidence to believe that others will see the value and logic of following them; they are not confident that they will earn respect by what they do.
Art is an important subject; real art moves us, stirs us, excites us, which is what someone with confidence will do. There are too many fake artists, too many con artists, conning us into thinking they know what they are doing and that it is the best thing for us. Leaders are in fact often conning themselves. As Pearl Bailey has written, “The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat one’s self. All sin is easy after that.” It is not a leader’s competence that is important; it is his confidence. Any leader who feels threatened by such statements is living proof of the truth of these very statements. Let us have the confidence to work towards developing confidence in our young people.
Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools and author of the book on “failure” called Failing to Win.