By Robin Smith

By maintaining their composure and placing trust in team members, leaders can instill self-esteem in individuals and build team confidence. With or without a positive role model, team members can take it upon themselves to support and encourage one another. Before joining my current organization, I served 14 years as commander over the uniformed police division of a federal law enforcement agency. It was a position I loved for 12 of those 14 years. While the last two years were emotionally draining, I tried not to let it show. I was all too aware that others were watching and were directly influenced by the shadow I cast. My father, a retired commander with the same agency, taught me the importance of being self-aware. I recognized my own flaws and weaknesses. I understood that others were familiar with, and attached importance to, my behaviors. I learned that any movement away from my normal disposition could have a negative impact on others.

To have hope of surviving the never-ending series of reorganizations and budget cuts, our department had to consistently perform at a high level. To accomplish this, team members had to remain motivated and engaged with purpose and commitment. Responsibility for keeping the troops motivated started with me. To that end, I worked on maintaining a positive attitude and encouraged others to focus on achieving goals and objectives. At times, I found myself at odds with my boss over the direction the organization was moving. When that occurred, I expressed my opinions and voiced my concerns – even when that wasn’t the popular thing to do – then followed the orders I was given. While I disagreed with decisions being made at higher levels, I accepted that I could not control them. I then focused on the one thing I could control… me. I knew that I had to set a positive example, while at the same time being open and honest with my people. Today, I am proud to have served with them and have no regrets about the way we performed. Ultimately, our efforts would not save our department from the axe. However, we went out with our heads held high, knowing we had done our part – right up to the end. Despite the outcome, the experience of being trusted members of a reputable team gave many of us a clear sense of self-worth and confidence that carried us over to new opportunities.

Self-esteem is a result of the choices we make as we deal with challenges. There are several things we can do to build self-worth in ourselves and others. By being fully engaged when working with teammates, you can boost confidence across the team as you build trust. While it is important to take full responsibility for your decisions and actions, don’t be overly critical of yourself. Accept the fact that you will make mistakes along the way. While some people cave in to others to gain acceptance, self-confidence is reinforced when you stand up for what you believe in. Personal integrity contributes to self-respect. Being true to your word and your values not only exhibits self-assurance, it can elicit positive feedback from others, raising your confidence even more. When others recognize you as being consistently honest and trustworthy, they tend to treat you with more respect. When others treat you with respect, it enhances your self-esteem. Likewise, when you treat others with respect, it enhances their self-esteem. While we cannot control the challenges thrown our way, we can control the way we respond to them. Building and maintaining self-esteem in ourselves and others increases the team’s ability to face up to challenges and recover more readily from setbacks.


Kinicki, A. & Kreitner, R. (2008). Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills, & best practices, 3rd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill (2016). Definition of “self-esteem.” Retrieved February 14, 2016 from