Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as internal confidence that one can succeed when faced with a new challenge.
It’s a quality informed by self-perception and previous success, and it strongly influences the outcome. A shortened definition might be simply self-competency.
Self-efficacy is what causes a person to face a challenge head on rather than shrink away; “I can do it” rather than, “I just don’t know.”
The higher one’s self-efficacy the more likely that person sees change as opportunity rather than threat.
Consequently, work teams need to be comprised of members with high self-efficacy. For a team to be self-directed, this self quality must be broadly distributed in its members. When that quality is paired with shared values, an organization can become an unstoppable force with respect to meeting the many tasks the organization faces.
Now here is the takeaway for leaders:
Helpful is the leader who can recognize and cultivate self-efficacy in direct reports. Let your staff be the hero instead of you.
But this quality is only one element needed by effective teams; the thorniest and most challenging problems among us require a more inclusive expression and definition. I’m thinking of thorny problems like poverty, human trafficking, and terrorism as representative challenges.
Challenges of this magnitude require something more than individual achievement; they require greater awareness and understanding of the variables that arises from the perspective of many invested selves. These kinds of challenges require the collaboration of competent, values-centered team members who possess a confidence that they can succeed in the challenge before them.
Let’s call this quality “Social Efficacy.”
Social (or collective) efficacy might be defined as collaborative competency; the belief that we can succeed; that we can take on a challenge and find solutions together.
This quality does not dismiss the need for self-competence. The successful organization still needs individuals who are both responsible and confident of their ability to perform. However, in social efficacy, individual competencies are amplified and becomes synergistic.
The social modifier provides a bigger vision of what success might look like. Indeed, social efficacy might be the only way forward for problems mentioned earlier.
Imagine what a community might be able to achieve when united by common values and imbued with collective “we-can-do-it-ness.” Individual achievement would pale in comparison with collective capacity; individual differences would become an advantage.
I think now is the time for social efficacy to take the stage; the problems are too big for any less inclusive perspectives. We can do it!
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