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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: 5 Tips For Leaders

When we hear the words imposter syndrome, we don’t always think of leaders, such as CEOs, COOs, and Directors. After all, leaders are there to guide and support their people whilst managing various aspects of an organisation, right? Wrong. All leaders, even those who are well seasoned, experience imposter syndrome from time to time.

One reason we may not always associate imposter syndrome with leaders is due to a limited number of leaders showering vulnerability. In her recent interview with The Leadership Coaches, Sandra Wilson, coaching and mentoring lead at British Transport Police, shared that new and experienced leaders often find it difficult to admit to vulnerability.

If you’re reading this and can resonate, you’re not alone. A recent study conducted byKPMGfound that 75% of female executives and leaders experience imposter syndrome at specific points in their careers. Meanwhile, according to aLinkedIn study, the global pandemic took its toll on professional confidence.

Leaders who experience imposter syndrome often feel like frauds, leading to self-doubt and reduced confidence. In the workplace, this can lead to decreased morale and higher stress levels. 

Although imposter syndrome is common, there are some ways to overcome it. In this blog, we explore five tips for overcoming imposter syndrome.

Welcome Vulnerability

Many leaders often perceive vulnerability as a sign of weakness, whilst some are frightened to show it. However, we could argue that vulnerability signifies strength and courage. This is because expressing and welcoming vulnerability in a world that seeks perfection shows leaders are willing and ready to take risks, learn, grow, and develop.

Leaders who welcome vulnerability also show their people that it is okay for them to do the same. This act builds trust and respect between leaders and their followers, enabling leaders to build stronger relationships with their people. When people feel they can share vulnerabilities with their leader, it creates increased trust. As we know, trust-based relationships are vital for effective leadership.

Furthermore, leaders who are open to vulnerability show that they are fallible and human, making them more relatable and approachable.

Have Open and Honest Conversations

Whether you’re a leader that has recently accepted a new role or a leader who has been working for an organisation for ten years, the ability to facilitate open and honest conversations in the workplace is a critical tool.

We know that open conversations support leaders looking to develop inclusive leadership and trust-based relationships and enhance employee retention, but how can these conversations help leaders overcome imposter syndrome?

Being open and honest about any concerns, fears, doubts, or worries enables leaders to identify the root cause of their imposter syndrome. Once these have been identified, leaders can begin to address them and develop strategies to overcome them.

In addition, facilitating these conversations opens the floor for honest dialogue amongst team members across the organisation. This promotes workplace well-being, supports development, increases psychological safety, and inspires others.

Seek Feedback

Consider the last time you asked for feedback. How did you feel? Did you feel fearful? Did you dread receiving the feedback?

Often, seeking feedback from managers when navigating imposter syndrome can cause additional stress and anxiety. It can also cause leaders to feel as though their managers will believe they cannot fulfil their role. However, seeking feedback can help leaders understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

In many instances, this can act as a form of reassurance that invites leaders to review their accomplishments, abilities, skills, and performance. When positive feedback is offered, leaders are able to see more clearly how other people see them and their work. In turn, they are gradually able to quieten their imposter syndrome.

Practise Self-Compassion

As a leader, how often do your people approach you saying they don’t feel confident in their abilities? Considering your answer, how often have you encouraged your employees, provided feedback, and supported them in overcoming any self-doubt they have had?

Leaders frequently encourage their people to practice self-compassion when they approach them. But how many times do leaders practise self-compassion? The answer is probably not what you would expect. Although there is limited research, many leaders do not practice self-compassion.

As noted above, many leaders experience pressure to excel in their role and be the ‘perfect’ leader. This increases the pressure leaders put on themselves in the workplace, which can exaggerate imposter syndrome.

While it may sound simple, showing yourself the same kindness you would show others can make a significant difference.

Work With a Leadership Coach

Worldwide, the number of people taking advantage of executive coaching has risen considerably. In fact, the International Coaching Federation (ICF)states that there has been a 600% increase in executive coaching in the last ten years.

In addition to supporting leadership development, working with a leadership coach offers leaders the space and time they need to discuss any concerns or fears they may have confidently. For some, conversations may surround imposter syndrome.

Although coaching cannot remove all concerns, it can help leaders identify how to overcome imposter syndrome by asking questions, exploring fears, and reviewing feedback from other people within the organisation.

To Conclude

Imposter syndrome is prevalent – millions worldwide experience it almost daily. Left unaddressed, imposter syndrome can hinder development. However, as noted above, there are ways that leaders can successfully work on overcoming imposter syndrome.

If you experience imposter syndrome and are looking for support in overcoming it,our team of credible coachescan support you. Many of our coaches specialise in self-belief, confidence, resilience, and empowering leaders to unlock their potential and be their best selves.

To find out more about how leadership coaching could support you,contact ustoday.


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