About to present in a room full of your peers, you take one look around and suddenly you don’t feel so good because you feel like a fraud.
Don’t feel bad, you’ve only just experienced Imposter Syndrome and this is more common than you think. Imposter Syndrome according to verywellmind.com “refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony – you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud – like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck.”
Truth be told Imposter Syndrome can strike at any time and isn’t a respecter of a person’s social standing; position in an organization or skills set. Interestingly when this concept of imposter syndrome was introduced by Psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 70s it was originally thought to apply mostly to high-achieving women. Since then, Imposter Syndrome has been recognized as being more widely experienced in both genders.
According to sciencedaily.com, studies have shown that individuals who suffer from imposter syndrome are still capable of doing their jobs well, they just don’t believe in themselves.
It’s not all bad news because leaders who suffer from Imposter Syndrome bring their own uniqueness to whatever scenario they find themselves in.
Framing Trust and Likeability Factor
A leader admitting their vulnerability fosters camaraderie and relatability from their team. This confession causes those around to be honest with their own feelings too and empowers them to behave in a way that they wouldn’t otherwise have. They feel confident that they won’t be penalized for being honest about how they feel about a project and this allows them to make more bold decisions that could surprisingly be beneficial to the bottom line rather than cower for the fear of failure.
Leaders shouldn’t always have to have their cape on. They should have moments when they can own up to feeling like an impostor. Leading with fear doesn’t benefit anyone nor does it encourage a healthy team environment. From the firstborn child in a family to the corporate CEO leader, you are groomed to be fearless and perfect and to hide any signs of fear even if you’re all torn up on the insides, it’s no wonder impostor syndrome persists and can seem so debilitating when in fact this humanizes the leader.
Share your wins and vulnerabilities with the team, it doesn’t diminish your value as a leader. This only makes the team feel connected as they continue to develop their own leadership skills while building that know, like, trust factor with you as the leader.
Feeling like a fraud isn’t all that bad
Ever heard the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway” it means a lot of things to many people; however, a leader following through means growth and that’s a good thing.
Being a keynote speaker for the first time could be a double-edged sword with both excitement and trembling fear all at the same time. What this means is as a leader you pause; take a holistic view of the challenge at hand and plan for it. That fear can be the catalyst that propels you to your next level.
The very essence of leadership is peeling back those layers while taking massive actions despite the feelings of inadequacy. This growth will be most evident in leaders who have had to lead their organizations over the course of crises such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. These leaders have had to deal with extraordinary organizational challenges that would no doubt have stretched and caused many days and nights of feeling like an impostor, but knowing they can’t back out with so many looking to them for guidance becomes the fire that fuels their success and growth despite those feelings of inadequacy.
Responding to impostor syndrome is no easy feat as it sometimes means stopping habits that have persisted for long. That leader will need to address a few limiting beliefs like being a perfectionist or defining success through the lenses of others’ accomplishments.
Assuming you’ve vetted and validated the situation at hand and you still have that fraud-like feeling then you do have to pay attention. You may have indeed bitten more than you can chew and you have to gracefully bow out of a situation that could be potentially damaging to your reputation as a leader. Impostor syndrome at that moment serves as a way to protect you as a leader from making a bad decision.
Impostor syndrome isn’t always a problem and our reaction to when it appears and how we handle it is what determines if it is an ally or foe.