Imposter Syndrome in Leadership: Overcoming Self-Doubt as a Manager

Jan 11, 2024
Imposter Syndrome and Management

Did you think you’d reach a certain level of success and not feel like a fraud anymore? This is more common than you’d think. Oftentimes, we look at others in senior positions and assume that they ‘have it all together’, and when we reach their level, we definitely won’t feel like a fraud anymore.

This is a myth!

You won’t suddenly wake up and not feel those fraudy imposter syndrome feelings. Often, it’s the case that as we progress through our careers, we feel more like a fraud than ever before (you can read more in the imposter syndrome report).

Imposter syndrome is that sneaky little voice in your head that whispers, "You're not good enough. You don't deserve to be here." It's that nagging feeling of being a fraud despite all your accomplishments and qualifications. But here's the thing – it's all in your head, and there is something you can do about it.

As leaders, imposter syndrome can be particularly detrimental. Our teams look up to us for guidance and direction. How can we lead effectively if we're constantly questioning our own abilities? So, let's dive into some strategies to silence that inner critic and reclaim our confidence.

  1. Acknowledge it. Admitting that you're experiencing imposter syndrome is the first step towards overcoming it. Remember, it's a common phenomenon – even the most successful leaders have grappled with it at some point.
  2. Embrace your accomplishments. Take a moment to reflect on how far you've come and the challenges you've conquered along the way. Keep a journal of your achievements, big and small, to serve as a reminder of your capabilities during moments of doubt. (This also helps with those tricky end of year conversations!)
  3. Shift your focus from perfection to progress. Perfectionism is often a breeding ground for imposter syndrome, read more here. Instead of striving for flawlessness, aim for continuous improvement. Celebrate your successes, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward.
  4. Surround yourself with a support network. Seek out mentors, colleagues, or friends who can provide encouragement and perspective. Share your feelings of self-doubt with them – you'll likely find that they've experienced similar struggles and can offer valuable advice.
  5. Practice self-care. Prioritise activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul, whether it's exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. A healthy lifestyle can boost your confidence and resilience, making it easier to combat imposter syndrome.
  6. Redirect your focus to those you serve. Who benefits from you capably doing your job? It’s those people you need to focus on, not yourself.

Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room – fear of failure. As leaders, we're often afraid of making mistakes, fearing that they'll tarnish our reputation or credibility. But here's the truth: failure is not the opposite of success; it's a stepping stone to it. Being vulnerable allows us to connect more deeply with our team - it shows that we are only human.

Instead of viewing failure as a reflection of your inadequacies, see it as an opportunity for growth. I prefer to use the term ‘setback’ instead of failure. When things don’t go according to plan, take a step back, look at what went wrong, ask yourself ‘what can I learn from this?’ and ‘what would I do differently next time?’ 

Confidence doesn’t come from planning, it comes from action. What small steps can you take to build up your confidence? Confidence is like a muscle – the more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. So, even if you're feeling unsure of yourself, project confidence outwardly. Stand tall, speak with conviction, and trust in your abilities – your inner belief will catch up with your outward demeanour.

Imposter syndrome doesn't have to define us as leaders. By acknowledging our feelings, embracing our accomplishments, seeking support, practising self-care, embracing setbacks, and projecting confidence, we can silence that inner critic and lead with authenticity and assurance. 


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