Leading at the top of the organization is lonely. According to a recent study called by The School for CEOs, 93% of top leaders require intensive preparation to take over an organization. Technical skill gaps that a leader faces as they take on positions of greater responsibility, such as making decisions about organizational structure and managing various stakeholder groups, often times receive more attention than some of the emotional and psychological hurdles they face. Impostor syndrome, for example, a major phenomenon that many leaders experience as they navigate a more complex landscape often causes people feeling ill-equipped to do the job. This has real performance implications both at a personal level and for the organization.
Leaders that experience impostor syndrome generally feel like a fraud. Often times, the story that replays in their minds is that they are going to be “found out”. In fact they often attribute their success to other factors – “ I was in the right place at the right time” or “I ended up here because I got lucky”. It’s also common to see executives that suffer from impostor syndrome not taking credit for their accomplishments. And if they do, they are usually pretty convinced that they won’t be successful the second time around.
It turns out that execs with impostor syndrome, tend not be vulnerable and this lack of vulnerability inevitably leads to a lack of self-awareness and development . To overcome this, creating a peer support system that can become a trusted network of advisors and serve as a go-to resource can be helpful. Working with an executive coach to look at some of the underlying beliefs and assumptions that are driving certain behaviors and then creating strategies to overcome them can also be of tremendous value. So if you or someone you know is feeling like an impostor, it’s normal and there are things that can be done to address it.