You might have a rather loud train running through your head that sounds like, “Do-I-have-what-it-takes-to-do-this-did-they-make-a-mistake-in-choosing-me-what-if-I’m-revealed-to-not-be-who-they-think-I-am?”
Rest assured, you are not alone.
Very seasoned leaders tell me that they’re wrestling with self-confidence, that they’re wondering if they’re up to the job, that they’re afraid they’ll be revealed, that they’re simply intimidated by the weight and responsibility of what’s on their shoulders and are concerned that others see them as having all the answers. Being promoted into larger, more highly visible roles can set this train to high speed.
A few ideas:
First, remember that there are very bright and capable people who thought you very bright and capable and put you where you are. You wouldn’t be there unless you were up to it.
Second, growth requires stretching. Which means that when we risk, we grow. It’s an equation. Despite the fear.
Which also means that we’re getting better along the way, even when our learning is the most difficult of all — what I’ve come to call our Stephen Colbert moments — where the only way to get better is by doing it and iterating – publically. (Have I mentioned the time I was walking across a stage delivering a keynote to many hundreds of people at a corporate event, and the heel of one of my Manolos went through the floor?)
Third, know your values, what you stand for, what matters. Align with all that. Not only will it serve as a rudder through difficult waters, but you won’t feel as if you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Your role may be different, you are you.
Fourth, find a trusted space where you can get input from others who have walked your path and continue to walk it. Part of what I consistently see with clients is that they think they are alone in feeling like an imposter.
Fifth, get tactical and practical. Whether you’re preparing for a media interview, a Board presentation, or a high-stakes, all-hands meeting, don’t wing it. Get coaching on specific strategies tailored to you. For a presentation, that might mean slowing down your rate of speech (when we get nervous we tend to talk faster), grounding yourself with somatic exercises, and being aware of what to do during the first ten minutes. For a new leadership role, it might evaluating everything from influence and key stakeholder buy-in to setting strategic priorities and building a rock star SLT. The goal, I tell clients, is you under the bright spotlight as the best version of yourself: confident and comfortable. That combination is hard to beat.
Lastly, leverage your fear into self-mastery. I haven’t met an exemplary leader yet who isn’t still learning, still stretching, still risking, still venturing into unchartered waters, still asking questions, still scared sometimes, still unsure they can pull it off.
Be that kind of leader.
With pride and humility, both.
And forget feeling like an imposter.