Leadership and The Imposter Syndrome

One of the recurring themes for many of my new clients is a sense that as they get promoted they become closer and closer to being discovered as a ‘fraud’!  Anytime now, the organisation will discover that I am not capable of taking on this responsibility and that I am just a ‘Leadership fraud”.  Does it ring a bell?  I have experienced it myself.  When we put ourselves out there for the big ‘stretch’ we become more vulnerable when all those around us, particularly our reports, all think we know what we are doing…with confidence!! 

If we are so successful, why do I feel such a fake? A widely used term for this experience is the impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome.  An individual is unable to internalise and accept their own achievements. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.  (Wikipedia)

Life and circumstances often draw us into our Leadership roles and careers.  Particularly for Baby Boomers who have perhaps not always had the academic background that some of the Millennials have had prior to taking up a specific career role.  Leadership is a way of being, so if our ‘Be-ing” feels vulnerable and frail, we are unable to internalise in a logical way that we deserve the promotion or the career we find ourselves in.  I have had clients refer to the ‘mask’ they wear at work.  Very exhausting!

Some tips to move beyond the sense of a tenuous hold on our confidence as a Leader?

  1. Recognise that you are not alone – you share this with many of your colleagues!
  2. Destigmatise the feeling – recognise when the feeling arises and simply don’t give it your attention.
  3. Recognise it may be EGO driven – it’s the voice we hear when everything seems to go wrong – I call it the “human effect”
  4. Accept the learning possibilities – we don’t learn much from our success’s other than that it give us an ego boost, so we need the experiences to do the learning.
  5. Be kind to yourself – you deserve your success as others have recognised your leadership ability
  6. Have fun!

Remember – Working your way through these processes takes courage!  Be kind to yourself and feel free to contact Patti , if you would like a Coach to partner you on this journey.


About Patti Gwynne

Patti Gwynne is an ICF Credentialed Leadership and Executive Coach based in Auckland.

Working your way through these processes takes courage! Be kind to yourself and feel free to contact Patti, if you would like a Coach to partner you on this journey.
(Patti offers a no obligation 30minute FREE phone coaching session to get you started).

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