2 Ways To Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Leader

If you've ever doubted yourself as a leader, you're not alone. Brian breaks down two ways you can close any gaps in your experience and gain confidence.

Ever wonder how you got into the leadership position you’re in?

It’s OK to be honest. Really.

I’ve been there.

I never felt as if I was the smartest person in the room, yet I continued to advance into leadership positions. Then eight years ago, I knew that I was going to be chair of a global board of directors. I was scared to death because I didn’t think I was a very good leader and didn’t understand how I had gotten that far.

I had the definition of imposter syndrome!

Reflecting on how I addressed it, I’d like to share two steps that will help you overcome imposter syndrome in your own leadership journey:

  1. Identify and embrace your authentic leadership identity.
  2. Understand where you need to improve and ask for help.

Identify and embrace your authentic leadership identity.

In a previous post, I mentioned a book called Discover Your True North, by Bill George, which explains how today’s great leaders are not necessarily the smartest people in the room but the ones with higher emotional intelligence. Reading this book was the first time I realized that my natural leadership style was what helped me elevate in my roles.

I knew I had high emotional intelligence — I genuinely care about others and am good at developing teams. It was only when I clearly understood my authentic leadership style that I could look back and say, “Well if this is what other people are seeing in me and why they want me in this role, I get it.”

Before, I didn’t realize the way my natural leadership abilities were showing up. This new knowledge started to make me feel more comfortable — it’s authentic to me, it’s who I am.

To begin overcoming imposter syndrome, it’s crucial to understand who you are authentically as a leader. How do you show up for your team? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you feel like you have emotional intelligence?
  2. Do you genuinely care about the people you lead?
  3. Are you good at building teams?
  4. Are you good at delivering results?

If you can answer “yes” to most of these questions, you’re probably 90% there.

If there’s an area you’re not strong at, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good leader. It just means you’re human and there are areas that you can work on.

Determine the areas you need to improve and ask for help.

No one expects you to be perfect, and no one expects you to have all the answers.

I sure don’t!

But you do need to have an idea of where to go to get the answers.

As a manager or leader in an organization, you need to be able to figure out who can help you solve problems and find the right tools to increase your impact.

And if you don’t have the basic skills and instincts, you can get training and mentoring to develop them. 

Depending on the areas you need to improve, be open to changing your leadership mindset.

For example, I find the person who craves the title of a leader and gained a leadership position because they’re the smartest person in the room, tends to lead from positional authority. If you lead from positional authority, you’re used to directing and focusing mostly on results.

In this case, you may need to develop more emotional intelligence. You need to begin to see the humanity in the people you lead. You need to have the courage to make the necessary changes to surround yourself with great people who are capable of helping you be successful. From there, you need to recognize the value of collaborating with your team and leading with influence.

This lets you move from positional authority to relational authority. You can develop relationships with the people you lead, earn their trust, and increase your effectiveness.

Once you define your authentic leadership style and the areas you need to improve, ask for help. Find mentors, leaders you admire, or a manager development training program to help you close those gaps.

Imposter syndrome is real. But there are tactical ways we can overcome it and become more effective leaders in the process.

It’s really about your emotional intelligence, caring about the people you lead, becoming good at building teams, and delivering results. If you’re working at those four things, you’re a good leader.

And if you’re great at them, you’re an amazing leader!

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