How to Stop Imposter Syndrome & Become a Great Leader

As a coach dealing in executive leadership skills, I have the privilege of working with many top executives across many sectors on how to succeed as a leader. I’ve discovered that, quite frequently, executives stop short of being as great as they can be. The reasons for this differ: “I’m comfortable where I am. It’s too much responsibility to get bigger. I don’t know if I’m capable.” One of the more interesting excuses is: “If I take on a higher position, someone is going to find out I’m a fraud.” 

Imposter syndrome is real—at least in people’s minds until they finally realize the Imposter Syndrome is itself an imposter! The fear of not being enough, not being good enough, or being a fraud—despite having amazing gifts, talents and experience—plagues a surprising number of people. And this is partly because as much as entrepreneurial leadership is admired, we come from a global society that tends to frown upon standing out. Which means that even highly qualified, intelligent people run away from opportunities to excel.

And yet the very people who are paralyzed believing they’re imposters are actually pioneers!

How to be an inspiring leader

Those who dare to be big have one clear differentiator. They embody what I call Pioneer Syndrome. They may not have the answers, but are willing to find them or create them. All are willing to forge ahead where others fear to tread. They’re people with amazing gifts, talents and experience who often mistakenly believe they’re imposters because they’ve been taught to doubt themselves and believe that thinking well of themselves and having self-confidence is egocentric!

Some of the best leaders in the world started very small. Many have gotten where they’ve gotten in large part based on the soft skills they’ve been willing to build. Skills like patience, persistence, the ability to listen, good communication, empathy and imagination. Skills they’ve been able to leverage to good effect.

They moved upwards, one step at a time, even in the face of feeling uncertain and, yes, unworthy. They went for it despite their fears—just like all good pioneers do.

Interestingly, great leaders use these skills to their advantage all the time. And the wonderful thing about that is, most soft skills don’t cost anything to learn. They simply require that you pay attention and be the best version of yourself that you can be. Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, is a great example. He started out way low on the totem pole. But he was willing to pitch in wherever he was needed and always treated people with kindness. Something he is known for to this day. 

We often call such people visionaries and self-starters. Some, less kindly, refer to them as takers and overly ambitious. And yet the world cannot advance without somebody being willing to be big. One of the advantages of visionary leadership is the ability to inspire many people to their best “Yes!” That is the way great teams and great companies are formed. Inspired by examples of visionary leadership, people unite in a dream bigger than themselves, yet still fulfill their own dreams within the bigger goal.

How to combat imposter syndrome

Being great doesn’t mean that every person must be a CEO. But, stop and think. Given how much time you spend at work, the bigger you can be, the more passionate you feel about what you’re doing, the better you will feel about yourself. And one of the advantages of visionary leadership is you’ll also have a much greater positive impact upon the world while having nicer adventures along the way!

Here’s quick exercise. Ask yourself: “What personality trait do I have that could be turned into a superpower?” It could be your smile, your willingness to put in extra time, your resilience, or your kindness. These are not things we are generally taught to believe are important. But they are no small things! You can actually begin to build a personal brand around kindness, imagination, and persistence and other such soft skills.

Become a great leader

Stop and notice how the one person in the office that everybody goes to for assistance tends to advance. Watch how far they go. It’s not about hard skills. “Heart eats hard for breakfast.”

There are people who seem to have the humblest careers and yet somehow seem to have a lot of impact on people. They also tend to make a lot of money. I’ve watched some waitresses and waiters do this. And taxi drivers. Why do they make more than others in the same profession? They use their people skills. They’re not afraid to be big. To put themselves “out there.” To be seen. To be noticed. They’re not afraid to be themselves. They’re not afraid to care.

You want to know how to become a great leader? How to combat imposter syndrome? Leverage your heart. Your interests. Your passions. Your truest self. Being big isn’t egotistical. It grows the world and creates abundance, one courageous person at a time. 

“How big are you willing to be?” It’s up to you to find out!

To find out more about your emotional DNA and how to move from limited to being big,  join me at one of my live events.