We hear a lot these days about Imposter Syndrome (IS). Probably many of us, if not most of us, have experienced the feelings that cause anxiety and worry. Imposter Syndrome is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” To put it another way, “anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.”
Over my 18 years as a leadership coach, I have had conversations with many leaders about this phenomenon, and most leaders feel the effects of Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career.
There have been great talks and helpful articles published on how to get over or take charge of Imposter Syndrome. Most of these are geared toward the individual, as though responsibility and work are only up to them.
Leaders, it is time to consider that transforming imposter syndrome is a two-way street. Leaders also need to do their part.
The reality is that you have hired the team and you want those professionals to shine, give their best, contribute to your organization. You may have a workplace that thrives on being a place of inclusion. And yet, Imposter Syndrome is lurking among many in your workforce.
Here is the thing: The environment needs to be such that it empowers those in the organization. All too often, everyday biases do more to contribute to disempowerment. You must look deeply at the biases (beliefs) and policies that exacerbate Imposter Syndrome.
Begin to recognize the impact of:
- Stereotypes and biases that fuel Imposter Syndrome. This is particularly prevalent in beliefs about women’s roles whether the biases are conscious or unconscious.
- Women and people of color not being seen as a partner or leader in the organization. In some professions, they are not recognized or acknowledged for the accomplishments they have achieved at a certain level in the organization.
- Not expecting someone to be as good as someone that you are familiar with or used to working with (that person that is most like you).
- Constantly comparing someone to others and not seeing someone’s unique talents and skills. This is a big one.
These create negative energy that turns into a vicious cycle for your team’s performance. Positive and creative energy slowly leaks out. The results in your team underperforming and being less likely to give their best because they feel it’s not good enough anyway.
Leaders in positions of power need to do a good “double-check” of their current beliefs and attitudes.
Examine policies, procedures and processes that are keeping those biases and beliefs in place and influence decision-making.
It is time to stand up and take individual responsibility to create change.
On the other side of the two-way street, individuals who are wrestling with their own Imposter Syndrome must realize that their mindset needs adjusting.
You are way more powerful than you think you are, and you are Only as powerful as you Think you are.
Tactical strategies may include…
- Examine those messages that are haunting you and keep you small. You were not meant to be small. You were meant to shine. You were meant to be your very best. You were meant to contribute to your organization, your community, and the world.
- Build a team of advocates and sponsors.
- Fear is what drives Imposter Syndrome, so examine those fears. It is natural to have them, but you must challenge them.
- When you hear that voice of Imposter Syndrome, try saying something like “I’ve got this.” You can shift that message to be more supportive. After all, it was only likely trying to protect you, but it is old and worn out, and you do not need it anymore.
- Work hard and give your best, because when you know you have done your best, there is no imposter.
- Avoid constant comparisons with others.
It is quite simple when both sides of the street are doing their part. We all can “be the change that we wish to see”.