You are a fraud!
You are a fake!
You really don’t know what you’re doing…do you?
All of these words and thoughts flew through my mind when I became the Chief Human Resources Officer for a wonderful organization many years ago. I thought I had no right to be in the job I had which led me to doubt to my capabilities as a manager and leader.
I thought that at any point, “someone” was going to come up to me and say:
“Paul, we realize that you have no idea what you are doing so we have to ask you to leave now. Thank you.”
Of course, the folks what would be responsible for “helping me move on” would be from the HR department, the same department that I was leading, so the irony was not lost on me!
These thoughts were all manufactured in my head and were not at all manifested in any behavior demonstrated by my management or peers within my organization. This was a classic case of Imposter Syndrome and of a leader, (i.e. me), not being able to find my true and confident voice.
What I did not know at the time was that I was in very good company. The Imposter phenomenon was formally recognized in 1978 and can cut across all genders, cultures and occupations. The late author Maya Angelou, actor Tom Hanks, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, tennis sensation Serena Williams and US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have all admitted to feeling like a fake and/or have been afraid of being “called out” as a fraud.
4 Steps to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
For me, the best way to “overcome” my Imposter Syndrome was (is) to actually integrate it into my unique leadership voice. Don’t gloss over it or ignore it or hide from it. Call it out. Acknowledge it for what it is. Be aware of these feelings. Understanding the triggers in your environment that enable those thoughts. What causes you to experience doubt is an important step to strengthening your confidence and eventually help to dilute that self-doubt.
These are the 4-steps I followed, (and continue to follow), to integrate my “inner imposter” into my leadership voice. I also use these steps in my coaching practice with my leadership clients who identify with Imposter Syndrome:
2 Self-Awareness Steps:
- Understand it is a common occurrence and you are in good company since up to 75% of successful leaders and entrepreneurs have admitted to experiencing Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career.
- Understand that it is originating from your own DNA…and you are the author of it…it is not coming from other sources or other people. In today’s social media-fueled and comparative world, it is easy to feel that you are not measuring up as a leader and are being left out of conversations happening around you (i.e. FOMO is real…Fear Of Missing Out).
2 Connection Steps:
- Connect to your past accomplishments, your past triumphs, your past learnings, your past legacy. Write out your success story: what has gotten you to this place…this time…this role on this day? It is not luck….or fate…but deliberate steps you have taken that have made you successful. Write down your successes, your recognitions, your accomplishments, achievements.
- Connect to your future vision, your future purpose, your future goals/outcomes, your future potential. Author a compelling future vision of yourself by creating a realistic picture of what success would look like, feel like, etc. Write all this down.
Next steps: Design your successful future
Next, channel your inner Picasso, get out some colored pencils and markers, and actually draw an image of what success will look like for you in 6 months or a year. No judgments on your artistic abilities! There is no right or wrong image. It is what you create. This image becomes your anchor, your GPS, your compass for what your future success will look and feel like. Take the time to create your work of art and have fun with the exercise…as it will become a living document of your confident and artful future voice.
Imposter Syndrome lives in the present hence why we want to connect our “successful past with our successful future”. We do not ignore the present but we use it as a stepping stone to our even greater potential.
Imposter Syndrome has been around for a long time and you will never be able to erase all of those feelings of self-doubt. They will continue to creep in from time to time. But by using this simple 4-step method, you can harness your “inner-imposter” for even greater growth and success.
About Paul N. Larsen
Paul N. Larsen, MA, CPPC, is a Certified Professional Performance Coach and an experienced leadership consultant and speaker. He has over 30 years’ business experience with executive and senior-level responsibilities within small and large companies, including being the Chief Human Resources Officer for a $3 billion organization. Paul partners with industry-wide leaders and teams from Fortune 100, start-up, and high-tech environments to find their unique leadership “VOICE” and create compelling and purposeful outcomes for their organizations. He has a proven track record with organizations such as SAP, Electronic Arts Twitter, and Walmart.
Find Your Voice as a Leader – Book by Paul N Larsen
As a leader, what is your purpose, what is your legacy, what is your VOICE? In his new book Find Your Voice as a Leader, our esteemed friend Paul Larsen looks at what it takes to To Find Your VOICE as a Leader and becoming a dynamic, influential role model.
Start building your legacy as a leader by voicing your confidence, courage, and commitment. Life is too short to not use your VOICE!
Purchase your copy of Find Your Voice as a Leader–click here.
Learn more about Paul N Larsen