Imposter Syndrome - How this could mean you are creating a leadership focus that is all about you.

Apr 27, 2021

Imposter Syndrome

To be responsive in leading through complexity, leaders are most effective when they become aware that their mindset has attached a ‘self-orientated meaning towards a challenge that impedes their ability to see all the options. The Outward Mindset is a lens that enables a leader to see when they fall into being overly focused on themselves; including their fears about their own personal value and how others perceive them. This self-focus process leads to a change in behaviour and decision making, lowering their capabilities within these areas and causing potentially detrimental decisions to the team they lead and the organisation they serve. It can also create extraordinary stress for individuals with the possibility of them burning out or breaking down.

Imposter syndrome is defined as an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. As a mindset coach, I have coached over 100 senior leaders who refer to imposter syndrome; it almost seems to be a rite of passage.

As humans, our basic human psychological fear of not being good enough is well documented. When I coach this dynamic must be validated, considered and managed. However ultimately, over time holding onto imposter syndrome becomes a choice…

When a situation requires a leader to respond at speed in the midst of complexity, the call to form a binary polarity response; be consultative and seek collaboration or decide and dictate may come automatically. The question a leader needs to ask themselves is how often is that automatic response about themselves? Is the mindset to be of value? ‘I should know the answer.’ ‘I’m the leader, I need to show leadership’.

What happens if you add on the Imposter fears of ‘If they could see how unsure I feel what would they think?’, ‘I have doubts I know what to do, but that fear needs to be squashed and hidden’. How often might a leader knee jerk a functional response that has the potential to be more about proving one’s own value, rather than what the challenge or opportunity requires?

What if the most Outward Mindset response in a given situation is to stand in the so-called Imposter space and say, ‘I don’t know what to do?’ ‘Can anyone see things I cannot?’ ‘If none of us can see an instant solution to this complexity, can anyone see the first step to micro-test a hypothesis and we can learn?’

What if a leader recognises Imposter syndrome as a potential pre-written excuse to not stand in uncertainty? What if a leader makes a choice without the fear of ‘how will I look’? Or ‘what will people think?’ to just test a hypothesis or intuition.

Being Outward is shown to be the essential element of a successful human response to uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and velocity. Does your organisation need to create a more psychological safe place and encourage a culture where Imposter syndrome finds it hard to flourish?

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