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Blog > Do You Experience Imposter Syndrome as a Leader? Here’s How to Beat It

Do You Experience Imposter Syndrome as a Leader? Here’s How to Beat It

Positively impact your well-being and your team
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Do you ever suffer from a pervasive feeling of inadequacy or self-doubt? Well, then you might be experiencing imposter syndrome. A study revealed that nearly 80% of business leaders have grappled with imposter syndrome, experiencing the fear of being exposed as frauds in their roles.

A variety of psychological patterns can lead to imposter syndrome, from anxiety and depression to past trauma and perfectionism to beyond. Unfortunately, imposter syndrome can lead to further problems, too, as the HRD America article linked above reported, including crippling self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and low morale, which can negatively impact not just your professional development and organizational culture, but also your relationships.

Those who suffer from imposter syndrome may procrastinate on tasks due to fear of failure or may make poor business decisions. Additionally, they may focus so much on not failing that they inadvertently reduce their own productivity. This ripple effect goes on to negatively impact team dynamics, decreasing overall team morale and trust.

So, how do you combat imposter syndrome before it gets the best of you? It starts with understanding the five main personas of imposter syndrome, so you can recognize which persona best fits you, and then developing actionable leadership strategies to break through your self-imposed barriers.

The Five Main Personas of Imposter Syndrome

Most leaders with imposter syndrome can relate to one of these five personas. Which one sounds like you?

The Perfectionist

This person grapples with feelings of being an imposter, leading them to strive for flawlessness to compensate. This pursuit of perfection propels them to establish exceedingly high goals, often beyond reach, which perpetuates a cycle of perpetual failure and discontent.

If this description resonates with you, it’s important to focus on setting realistic and attainable goals. Embrace the journey of progress rather than fixating on perfection.

The Expert

This persona often feels as though they’re lagging behind their peers, prompting a compulsion to amass knowledge and become a master in all areas. They invest a significant amount of time gathering details about every aspect of their team’s activities and every decision that arises.

This intensive quest for information can lead to procrastination in decision-making, under the belief that they still lack sufficient information. It may also result in their team perceiving them as overly controlling or excessively involved in their work.

Leaders who identify with this behavior should recognize that their position already denotes them as authorities and that they possess enough insight to make sound choices.

The Natural Genius

This leader harbors a sense of being an imposter, believing that the obstacles they encounter signify a flaw within themselves. They experience shame in the face of these difficulties, doubting their qualifications and the self-image they once held with confidence.

Yet, it’s important to acknowledge that setbacks are universal, affecting everyone, regardless of their level of skill or achievement. Embracing a growth mindset can transform these challenges into valuable learning experiences, offering chances for personal and professional growth.

The Soloist

This leader operates under the belief that their solitary efforts are what propelled them to their current position, and thus, they must continue to depend solely on themselves. They fear that seeking help might expose them as a fraud. This mindset, however, has resulted in overexertion and a lack of trust in their team, preventing them from reaping the rewards of teamwork and shared responsibilities.

Such leaders must move past the imposter syndrome and recognize the strengths of collaboration and delegation. Embracing these practices can enhance outcomes and lead to a more impactful leadership style.

The Superhuman

These individuals combat feelings of imposter syndrome by outworking their peers and going to great lengths to demonstrate their competence. Yet, such intensity can strain relationships, be unwelcoming, and often lead to an unhealthy life, accompanied by considerable stress.

As an alternative, it’s beneficial for these leaders to focus on self-care, while cultivating a work ethic that is both effective and sustainable.

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How to Develop a Supportive Work Environment

Did you relate to one of the above personas? If so, it’s time to let go of that imposter syndrome, recognize how it’s hurting you, and begin accepting that you belong where you are — and relying on those around you. Doing so doesn’t mean you’re any less capable. It can improve your leadership exponentially, benefiting your entire team.

So, both for yourself and your team, begin creating a workplace culture that encourages open communication and vulnerability without judgment. Emphasize the value of continuous learning and development programs. Establish mentorship and peer support mechanisms that guide everyone.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Confronting imposter syndrome is no simple task, particularly when it’s intertwined with past traumas or underlying mental health concerns.

Seeking the guidance of a professional coach or therapist can be an invaluable resource and support mechanism for overcoming these feelings. Through cognitive behavioral techniques, you can learn to recognize and alter negative thought patterns, enhancing your mental well-being.

Additionally, engaging in mindfulness and self-awareness exercises can help you remain grounded and manage your emotions related to work and perceived fraudulence. It’s also beneficial to compile a personal dossier of your accomplishments and positive feedback, which can serve as a reassuring touchstone during moments of self-doubt.

The Bottom Line

Even the most accomplished executive leaders can harbor a secret: the gnawing fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” However, imposter syndrome is not just about self-doubt; it’s a critical barrier that can stifle innovation, decision-making, and the overall growth of a company.

If you grapple with imposter syndrome, it’s important to identify its presence and understand the underlying reasons for these feelings. Once recognized, actively work towards overcoming it to enhance not only your well-being but also to positively impact your team and workplace culture.

Arootah Executive Coaches can help. Learn more by signing up for a free introductory coaching call today.

Get practical strategies you can apply for personal and professional growth. Sign up for The Weekly Return newsletter today.

By providing your email address, you agree to receive email communication from Arootah

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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