Do you ever feel like an imposter? Like someone will figure out you aren’t up to the job you have? Guess what? The Imposter Syndrome is a thing. And it’s a thing all kinds of leaders learn to deal with and overcome. Women. Men. Even people like you who are in exactly the right place at the right time to overcome it. Mitch shows us we’re not alone. – InPower Editors
For years there has been one question that I ask my executive clients when they take on a new role or a high-stakes challenge in their business. I have found the answer to this question gets people to feel “real” faster than most any other question I ask: What kinds of things have been running through your head and heart when you are driving to work in the morning?
I paint the extremes to get their realness-juices flowing. I give them the range of things that they MIGHT be feeling/thinking. I say to them (with some levity)… on the one extreme you might feel like a complete imposter— like you have no business leading this team. You may find yourself thinking: I simply don’t know this business well enough…I’m not sure I can pull this off…I’m not sure I deserve this job…It is only a matter of time before people discover that I am unfit for this role or someone else would be better at it than I am. You get the idea. Their laughter is telling—this is a very real, very common experience. Then I say, on your best days—you might feel confident, energized and unstoppable. You are certain that you are the right person for this role and this is the right time for you to be in it! You are excited to share your vision and you feel a level of ease in the way you are leading and connecting with others. You know you are uniquely qualified for the job. You feel confident, clear and focused.
I am yet to find anyone who doesn’t relate to this continuum of thoughts and emotions—they get it. They really get it. It is such a real moment to see full-grown, experienced, highly- respected leaders admit that they doubt themselves. And now, I get it. I bet you get it too.
Leaders vacillate between confidence/inspiration/clarity and fear/doubt/insecurity. They find their way to greater confidence and assuredness over time, but it usually takes 6-12 months in role before the imposter voice takes a break and they experience greater ease. I can think back to multiple times in my own life and career that have elicited this fear, uncertainty and doubt within me:
—becoming a wilderness expedition leader (I hope nobody dies on my watch),
– getting married (I hope my husband never falls out of love with me)
– speaking in front of large groups of people (will they like me?),
– coaching stellar executive leaders (will I be able to help them?),
– becoming a mother for the first time (will I be good enough?)
All of these life experiences have elicited a variety of very REAL feelings in me—from inspired to terrified, from confidence to doubt.
An important component of leadership is the willingness to be real—to admit not knowing, to admit fear, to admit uncertainty and doubt. I believe there is a time and place to be steady through the storm and be the grounding force amidst others fears and doubts—but I also think a range of both assuredness and vulnerability is what GREAT leadership is all about. It’s also what being human is all about.
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These are the feelings that “women in real life” experience… in fact, these are the feelings that people in real life experience, women and men. At WiRL, I aspire to have “realness” as our top value because I wholeheartedly believe that innovation, creativity and a positive impact for our attendees is inextricably linked to vulnerability and real-ness. As a leader I believe it is as much my job to say “I don’t know. We are learning. We will figure this out” as it is to call the shots, be decisive, and be steady through the storm. I may not always be able to see the road ahead with great clarity but I absolutely know I will keep driving even amidst the storm—seeing the distance the headlights will allow me to see, and having faith that the road will continue to reveal itself, 200 feet at a time. It is downright scary and vulnerable to feel this way and even scarier to admit to the people I am leading that I don’t have all the answers. I believe that if we want to help others feel confident in their own voice and contributions (even amidst fear and uncertainty) then we need to model the way. We owe it to you to be “real” with you. To be real is to be human. Not just real in work but real in life.
My question to you is: What kinds of things have been running through your head and heart when you are driving to work in the morning? Are you being ‘real’?
Check out the InPower Coaching Leadership Development Program for lessons that will help you build your confidence.