If you think about it logically – you are probably going to feel a degree of imposter syndrome if you are attempting to do something you have never achieved previously. Makes sense doesn’t it?
It stands to reason that if your company grows quickly at some point you are likely to feel like you are not equipped to lead the company.
Looking back I can identify three specific times in my life when I have a severe bout of ‘Imposter Syndrome’. These were when I bought a my first company at the age of 24 and realised I knew very little about running a business, when I delivered my first public workshop to a paying audience and lastly when I was about to attempt my first Ironman distance triathlon.
It was only during the third major bout, when I was waiting with 1499 other competitors on the beach at Tenby for the swim section of the triathlon that I started to appreciate how common the syndrome was. It wasn’t a case of trying to overcome the syndrome – what I needed to do was embrace it.
I realised that day that feeling an imposter goes hand in hand with operating outside of your comfort zone. So rather than worry about feeling like an imposter and wasting valuable brain power why not just focus on the job in front of you and focus your energies on what you need to do grow, improve and then succeed?
The commonality of the syndrome in a sporting environment I realised when talking to fellow wannabe Ironmen on the beach in Tenby before the race, the commonality in a business environment I have realised over the past 10 years when coaching MD/CEO’s.
It is likely there are going to be times you question your lack of a particular skillset or your knowledge around a certain area of the business. I would suggest, if as a leader, you have never experienced Imposter Syndrome to some degree you have either been very foresighted at the way you have equipped yourself for the role or your business hasn’t grown quick enough for you to feel outside of your comfort zone. In my experience these leaders are in the minority.
OK, so if we agree it is a likely consequence of running a successful business and is in some ways a desirable situation, we can then focus on how to handle it. My suggestions are threefold:
1) Adopt an ‘every day is a school day’ mentality – when you come across a gap in your knowledge or skill set get learning so the gap is soon closed.
2) Surround yourself with a good team – you can’t continue to be the smartest person in the room once your business gets to a certain size, so accept this and surround yourself with talented specialists
3) Embrace the opportunity – Henry Ford once said “ that whether you think you can or your can’t the chances are you are going to be right”
As a leader imposter syndrome comes with the role. So it then becomes a choice; are you going to use its presence to challenge you or to paralyse you.