I had a boss once, Mark Furtney, who would say,"Mary Kay, proceed with confidence even when you have none."
These are uncertain times and it's difficult to lead in uncertain times - confidence wanes. And the truth is, people will follow the one who seems to have the answers, or perhaps the one who seems to have confidence in some outcome.
I wouldn't say that exceptional leaders pretend to have confidence; I think people see through that pretty quickly. But exceptional leaders examine the environment or situation, find the nuggets they can hold on to and know to be true, get in touch with their values and beliefs, and lead from that place. And exceptional leaders aren't afraid to make mistakes, knowing that they've stayed true to their core beliefs. If she makes a mistake, she learns from it, redirects, and moves on.
With this brand new year ahead, in still uncertain economic, political, and religious times, get in touch with the truths you can hold on to, set your course within that framework, and proceed with confidence, so others will follow.
UPDATE: Interestingly enough, after writing and posting this entry, I read my daily update from Harvard Business Review and found this post: Confidence is a Numbers Game