Do you ever feel like a fake? If you’re a leader today and you’ve felt some occasional insecurity in your role, you’re far from alone. This phenomenon is often called impostor syndrome, and it’s a concern that arises in many training sessions I deliver to leaders, and new leaders in particular.
The good news is the syndrome is quite curable. Here are five strategies to help you out:
- Know that it’s normal. Especially as a new, untested leader, it’s completely normal to have fears about your work and career. The trick is to keep moving forward despite the fear. And here’s a secret: One of my observations about impostor syndrome is that the people most likely to admit to having it are usually the least likely to really be impostors. The true impostors don’t even realize they’re in over their heads!
- Take stock of your skills and experience. Another way to combat career insecurity is to remind yourself of your training. People rarely rise to leadership roles by accident, so take a moment to remember the abilities, talents and ingenuity that landed you in a top position. For instance, if you’re on stage at a conference about to speak on a panel with a group of impressive people, remind yourself that you worked hard to get there, you know your stuff and you were invited to participate for a reason. Don’t let everyday nerves escalate into full-blown panic.
- Seek candid feedback. If you don’t trust your own self-assessment, then trust the people you admire. Cultivate a network of mentors and professional friends whose careers and opinions you admire. Then ask them for an honest assessment of anything you are feeling impostor-y about.
- Get better all the time. The more I study leadership, the more I believe it is a constant learning and development process. No matter how successful, powerful or confident you become, there is always room to grow. So, attend conferences, listen to expert podcasts, read blogs and books, have coffee with people you admire, and listen to your employees and customers’ ideas. The best antidote to self-doubt is action.
- “Level-up” your look. Confidence comes from the inside, but it’s no secret that your outer appearance matters a lot, too. Dressing well, liking your haircut and having powerful body language can make a real difference. While you don’t have to reinvent your appearance, try “leveling up” your professional look. Particularly if you’re young (and even more so if you look young), get in the habit of dressing one level up from the people you manage or interact with. (For example, if everyone in your office is business casual, then wear a blazer with your standard jeans and button down.) You might not do this every day, but it’s a good way to stand out and feel more confident.
Do you have other tips for beating the impostor blues? Please share in the comments!