How to deal with impostor syndrome

One of the surprising things I’ve discovered while coaching founders and successful leaders in the past several years is that they are not immune to impostor syndrome. In fact, far from it. It seems that the more growth and visibility their companies acquire, the more sharply they fear that they’re not up to par, and that soon everything will come crashing down.

After having worked on this specific topic dozens of times with my clients, I’ve found these two points to be the most helpful in minimizing the damage created by impostor syndrome. Here’s how I coach them through it:

  1. Reality check: You’re not the only one dealing with impostor syndrome. Most of my clients have faced some form of it at one point or another. You’re human, and you’re normal!

  2. Let’s try this. Let’s suppose for a minute that you are, in fact, a big fat impostor in your role as leader. Let’s pretend you currently don’t have what it takes to be CEO, that you don’t have the tools or the expertise for it. Then ask yourself:

If that were really true, AND you had no other choice but to continue being CEO of your company, then how would you get yourself to a place where you had the tools, and the confidence, to be in the role?

Then the answers start surfacing from their own lips:

“I would read every great book and attend every seminar taken by the best of the best leaders in the world.”

“I would create a personal Board of Advisors to suppport me in growing as a leader.”

“I would ask for input + observations from every person who works with me directly, and even indirectly, so I could get guidance on how to improve.”

“I would ask my friend, an inspiring and powerful leader at company X, to mentor me and teach me how she became so amazing at running her company.”

The point here is:

Impostor syndrome is, more often than not, a fragile ghost that won’t survive with you taking specific, decisive action to become better at the things you feel secretly insecure about.

You could stand up to impostor syndrome today. Go do it.

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