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Power Up

Have you ever felt that you didn’t have the right skills for a new leadership role? Or once you did secure that promotion or a new job, did you wonder if you were the right person for the role? If you have, you’re certainly not alone. Many of people – regardless of their executive standing and experience – share that at moments in their career they have felt self-doubt. Whether it is imposter syndrome or a distrust of power, these types of limiting beliefs can prevent us from stepping into roles where our leadership is most needed.

A recent KPMG study revealed that 75% of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their careers. More than half of executive women surveyed also agreed that the more successful they have become, the lonelier it gets at the top.

Research does not tell us whether imposter syndrome is gender-specific, and it can manifest itself in counterintuitive ways. For example, some of us may veer towards perfectionism and be unable to face the possibility of failure lest it reveal we are not equipped to handle anything that comes our way. For others, it may be a relentless pursuit to prove our worth resulting in stress and anxiety even when we are performing beyond expectations. Finally, for others, it could look like underperforming to avoid receiving feedback and potential criticism.

When we become aware of our limiting beliefs, we can feel better prepared to step into that next leadership role and hold power with integrity and grace. Read on for strategies to help you or your colleagues power up.

Practice for You

Regardless of age, gender, or title, many of us can struggle with limiting beliefs that become more pronounced when we are faced with new work responsibilities or a high-profile project. Here are three steps to help prepare you to embrace a more powerful role in your organization:

Step 1: Reframe Your Thinking

Challenge self-limiting beliefs by reflecting on the success you’ve already achieved and remind yourself that making mistakes is part of learning.

Step 2: Make Room to Lead

Delegation is essential when stepping into larger roles at work. Move operational projects off your plate to give you more time for strategic planning. Focus more on your people rather than projects to ensure you’re developing the next level of leaders to implement initiatives.

Step 3: Set Clear Boundaries

Get comfortable with saying no. Good strategy requires that you say no more than you say yes to ensure you have the resources and time to implement your ideas effectively.

Practice for Your Team

Some members of your team may not realize that self-doubt may be impeding their professional development. Take time to raise awareness of the “3 Ps” which are common flags for imposter syndrome:

  • Perfectionism – Making mistakes is part of learning. Help encourage your colleagues to grow their professional portfolio and skill sets and share ways to deal with inevitable setbacks.

  • People Pleasing – It is hard to disappoint our colleagues, but this is part of leadership. Help role models have difficult conversations when conflicts arise and how to navigate the politics of power.

  • Procrastination – Sometimes procrastination is more than an issue with time management. It could be a delaying tactic for colleagues who fear making a mistake or receiving negative feedback. Help the team get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable with high-stakes projects.

A Spark of Joy

There is joy in discovering we’re not alone

A Different View

Acknowledging our achievements and valuing our worth is a vital step to developing greater confidence and combating self-doubt. Listen to the conversation on navigating imposter syndrome during a job search here.


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