“Maybe I’m not capable of being the leader that I want to be.”
“I’m not confident that I can do a decent job as an executive.”
“Who do I think I am? Truth be known, I’m not really very effective in my role.”
So many leaders talk about how they sometimes feel like a fraud in their role—and that they’re convinced they’re going to be found out. At times, they’re certain that they’re an imposter who’s not capable of doing a half-decent job, let alone shine in their role. They think that the career success that they’ve achieved so far was a fluke. Even Dr. Margaret Chan, when she was Director-General of the World Health Organisation, said,
“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
You Can Turn It Around
This “imposter syndrome” is very common—especially amongst female executives and leaders, but it shows up for many male executives and leaders at some point in their careers too.
I know these thoughts and feelings are debilitating. The good news is that removing them is feasible, practical and do-able. Let’s face it, they are only subjective, emotional thoughts and feelings—that are highly likely to be unfounded.
Confronting Your Imposter Syndrome
These unfounded self-doubts need to be—must be—confronted so you can confidently progress your career.
✅ First, be aware when any negative internal dialogue shows up
✅ Ask yourself whether your thinking is realistic or if it’s unfounded
✅ If your thinking is realistic, instead of beating yourself up, take precautionary action. (Can you seek advice from an expert, for example? Or do you need to skill-up with something?)
If your self-doubts are unfounded, confront them for what they are. Acknowledge that your thoughts, feelings and internal dialogue is just this imposter stepping in. Your thoughts, feelings and internal dialogue are not the truth! Get into the habit of removing this negative bullshit that shows up in your head. Call it for what it is—and replace it with your memories of when you’ve shone in the past.
Your Call to Action
To turn your perception around, it’ll take more than calling yourself on this just once. You’ll need to consistently be aware of your internal dialogue—when it’s working well and when it’s not. Be alert to when you’re not being realistic in your head.
Whenever you notice even the slightest bit of imposter syndrome is hanging out with you, call it for what it is—an unfounded self-doubt. Focus on where you’ve shone, the positive comments others have made about you and your work, where you’ve come from and where you are now.
Hold your head high and step forward with courage and certainty.