By Leslie Pratch (Contributor, Harvard Business Review)
On January 1, Virginia Rometty will become the first female CEO of International Business Machines Corp. Articles about her have lauded her ability to blend enthusiasm, charisma, clear communication, strategic thinking, and “cool-minded” decision making. But one New York Times story placed the emphasis on the role self-confidence may have played into her success:

Early in her career, Virginia M. Rometty, I.B.M.’s next chief executive, was offered a big job, but she felt she did not have enough experience. So she told the recruiter she needed time to think about it.

That night, her husband asked her,”‘Do you think a man would have ever answered that question that way?”

“What it taught me was you have to be very confident, even though you’re so self-critical inside about what it is you may or may not know,” she said at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit this month. “And that, to me, leads to taking risks.”

Self-confidence is one of the elements of active coping, a set of behaviors central to executive success that I’ve identified in my work assessing executives for senior leadership roles. In the first half of 1990s, I headed research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business investigating the longer-term personality predictors of leadership. Among the relationships examined were those among gender, coping, and motivation in the evaluation of leadership effectiveness.

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