Working with leaders across diverse business sectors, I often hear this: I’m afraid people will find out I’m a fraud or imposter–and the game will be over. This little voice inside is common, and imposter syndrome is a constant, nagging fear.
Prepping for a workshop recently, I pored over my notes to see what drove those feelings, and an insight emerged. When viewed through the systemic lens, people with imposter syndrome are actually in the process of breaking limiting cycles–and stepping beyond the rules of the system can feel disconcerting. With good reason.
Order, belonging, and the balance of give and receive.
If we look at the three components inherent in all systems, we might notice a few commonalities among leaders with imposter syndrome:
With order: A leader may have had to step up at an early age and take a position that didn’t really belong to them. For example, filling in for a missing parent, stepping into shoes that felt too big.
In belonging: Leaders might feel lonely–or like an outsider entirely–until they learn to inspire supportive growth and create great teams.
Balance of give and receive has it own set of dynamics which determine the kind of leaders we will or can become, and whether we will be burdened, demanding or balanced leaders. With respect to imposter syndrome, many leaders feel like they may be overpaid and will either work tirelessly to justify it or feel guilty or even fail in order to restore what they perceive as balance.
Turns out, people like this aren’t suffering from imposter syndrome at all.
In order for a system to grow, its members must extend the systemic boundaries, breaking limiting cycles and boundaries. These leaders may feel like imposters, or be viewed as mavericks and renegades. Truth is, there’s another more accurate descriptor for them.
They are pioneers. And they have the courage to do what others have not, to look at the world differently, and to take the steps to find the answers that are needed. Good leaders have to be more so that their teams can do more. It’s a crucial step for growth.
So, the next time you feel like an imposter, remember it’s the pioneer effect. You’re willing to be bigger–and the world gets to benefit.