I have a friend (really!) who’s going through a bit of a personal crisis right now. He just got a new job in which he’ll be leading a team of about 25 people. He’s very well qualified for this job. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that his entire life has been leading up to this job. He is, in my opinion, the perfect person for the job.
So what’s the crisis?
“I’m not sure I can pull it off,” he tells me. “What if I get there and they realize that they’ve hired the wrong person?”
Have you ever felt this way? Most high achievers have.
Leaders face a lot of external pressure. There are deadlines. There are budget constraints. And there are the expectations of multiple stakeholders: bosses, employees, investors, and more.
But perhaps the greatest pressure many leaders face is an internal one: the pressure of Imposter Syndrome.The greatest #pressure #leaders face could be an internal one. #producingunderpressure Click To Tweet
You’ve probably heard of Imposter Syndrome. I’ve written about it before. It’s that gnawing feeling that you’re in over your head. That you’re not up to the job. That whoever hired you made a terrible, terrible mistake, and that eventually (probably on the same day) everyone is going to figure out that you’re a massive fraud.
What makes this such an insidious pressure is that, unlike most of the external pressures, Imposter Syndrome is irrational. And because it’s irrational, you can’t reason with it.
Let’s take deadlines, for example — what I call the Pressure of the Clock. If you have until 5 pm Thursday afternoon to deliver a final report, that’s a real pressure. The clock is, literally, ticking, and you have to deliver the goods. And, logically, the pressure increases as the deadline gets closer. Unless you’re one of those people who always gets your work done not just on time, but early (and if you are one of those people, know that we all hate you, and we have since we first met you back in elementary school), you’re going to feel more pressure on Thursday at 4:45pm than you did on Monday at 9 am. That makes sense, right? It’s logical.
Imposter Syndrome, in contrast, isn’t logical. The chances are overwhelmingly good that the person who hired you is not actually an idiot, and you’re not actually a fraud. So why do you feel this way? My research tells me that, at the core, there are two possible reasons:
- You’re so good at your job that it comes easily to you. So you think, “This is so easy that any fool could do it; I’m nothing special. And soon they’ll figure that out.” So here’s what you need to know: What’s easy for you isn’t easy for others. And that’s what makes you so incredibly valuable to your organization!
- You’re facing a challenge you haven’t faced before. Maybe it’s a new project; maybe it’s a new job. Either way, it’s a stretch for you, and you want to deliver. That’s natural. It’s also natural to have a few butterflies in your stomach. That doesn’t make you a fraud, it makes you human. Here’s what you need to know: The reason you were given this challenge is because you’ve proven yourself before. You’ve got what it takes. And once you succeed in this challenge (although there may be some first-time hiccups), you’ll be able to add it to your ever-growing record of success.
My friend will do great in his new job, even though it currently represents a new challenge. In fact, I predict that he’ll do so great that he’ll soon start thinking, “This is so easy that any fool could do it.” That’s not true for him.
And it’s not true for you either.