Sentenced to Number Two


Leadership styles don’t just happen in a vacuum.

How we are as leaders begins with who we are in our family system coupled to events, and decisions we make about those events. Often unconscious loyalties can lead us to be smaller versions of ourselves.

Jake was well-respected in the global company he’d been part of for the last ten years. He had a real flair for understanding difficult bosses and translating their needs into jobs well done. In a few years he might retire, he said. Life was good. 

He came to see me because his current boss was retiring, and he wanted something different. He was great at getting others promoted without ever getting the credit for the work he did behind the scenes. I asked what stopped him from being a leader in his own right and he said he’d always been told he was a great number two. I asked where that had started, and he said it began way back as a kid when his mother had told him he was a great number two man in the house and that had stuck. He’d developed a real talent around that. Then he remembered that his father had also been a great number two at his own place of work. 

Hidden Loyalty:

Through work we did together Jake began to realize that he had a hidden loyalty to his father. If number two was good enough for his dad,  it was good enough for him. He also remembered that a manager at his first job had told him that he would go far if he didn’t settle for less and now he wondered what might happen if he explored that possibility. We worked on thoughts, patterns, sentences, and mindsets that kept him limited, seeing what was true and what was simply something he had told himself.

He even asked his father’s blessing to go as far as he could and be a number one, a conversation that moved them both. He reported several times that he could feel his thoughts and emotions changing. He found himself stepping forward and saying yes to all sorts of things. He even volunteered to travel abroad to facilitate goodwill between his company and a new partner. He’d been interested in the culture for a long time and fit in really well.  

Within six months Jake had taken an overt lead in company projects and made suggestions that were so helpful to the organization that he was promoted to be an international team lead.

He says that life is no longer good,  it’s incredible and that being fully himself is unbelievable!

He has developed a real flair for being number one too. 

Systemic coaches with a background in constellations understand the multi-generational ties that bind us and the treasure that lies in our thoughts, words and actions. Once clients understand this simple yet effective framework for changing their lives, they are creating their own lives, not repeating the history of their ancestors. 

In our leadership DNA workshops, we explore patterns in leadership, their origins and their effects. Then we look at the hidden gifts, events, thoughts, emotions and mindsets within your leadership style and help you to break through your own barriers and elevate your ability to become an inspiring and visionary leader. 

Forget the Imposter Syndrome. You Have Pioneer DNA.

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.

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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.