Imposter Syndrome: A Case Study by Brigid Asquith-Hunt
We’ve been through a lot over recent years with a global pandemic and lockdowns creating new labour force participation dynamics and changing working conditions! But as we settle into a ‘new normal’ I have noticed many suffering a fall in self-belief and confidence in their work, particularly in emerging leaders. These managers have largely experienced success within their roles, have been highly regarded and then promoted over time in recognition of their commitment and drive.
Why do they doubt themselves and their ability to lead? Worse still, why do some second guess their success and, to some extent, suffer what appears to be ‘imposter syndrome’?
Recently I was coaching a leader, *Matthew. He had considerable success in one industry, changed career and was keen to apply his knowledge and experience to an exciting national leadership role in a new industry. The ‘honeymoon’ period was over and now he really needed to ‘step up to the plate’ and lead a national team going through a large organisational change. Matthew was now in a situation where he felt less knowledgeable than everyone around him, and this developed self-doubt in team meetings and was affecting his ability to manage.
In stakeholder meetings Matthew had lost the confidence to express his opinion. Then when presenting at an industry conference, he acknowledged a fear of failure. Behind all of this was someone who was working extremely long hours.
In our coaching sessions we had to firstly unearth the root cause of this fear. Yes, he did suffer from a perfectionist nature but also, leaving the industry after over a decade to establish himself in a new industry, stifled his confidence. He had successfully managed small local teams before but just didn’t seem to have the self-belief that he could lead this national team.
I remember drawing a diagram to help bring to life where I thought he was– why he was feeling the way that way.
I then drew over the top of this what I thought was the reality and this was the result.
Most other leaders know as much as us, they have different experiences and, therefore, what they know is different to what we know. They don’t necessarily know more but there will be common ground and similar experiences.
This reinforced the value in establishing a strong foundation in leadership acumen: the integration of business acumen and people acumen. It’s this leadership insight that will allow us to lead a team effectively and sustainably across multiple industries, over time. There are many benefits to leaders applying their skills across industries and regions in the VUCA world in which we live. This is why the Management Immersion Programs and Leadership Immersion Programs that we run at Aide de MD are valuable. Having the strong foundation of leadership acumen will allow us to lead our teams, providing them confidently with direction and clarity as we strive to fulfil a purpose.
Back to the leader that I was coaching. Matthew conquered his self-doubt with renewed confidence through our coaching sessions and participation in one of our Leadership Immersion Programs. We still look back at this diagram and smile as we recall what we coined: “the flower of confidence”!!
*Matthew is a real person, but I have changed his name to protect his identity.