Are you a leader who sometimes feels not good enough? Here are three simple steps for overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Kate Winslet once expressed how she often doesn’t feel good enough and does not feel she deserves success: “[I would] wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud.”

It seems incredible that Kate Winslet would have these feelings, often recognised as Imposter Syndrome, especially given her obvious success and talent. However, she is not alone in having these feelings. Almost every leader I’ve coached has experienced imposter syndrome at some time in their career. It is clear to me that imposter syndrome is extremely common, both in men and women.

You may recognise some of these classic symptoms of imposter syndrome:

–          Having the inability to internalise your accomplishments

–          Feeling that other people have an over inflated view of you

–          Attributing any success you have to luck or just being in the right place at the right time

–          Being fearful of being ‘found out’

–          Feeing like a fraud

–          Believing that the very fact that you got the job/do this work means that it can’t be that difficult

–          Looking more at what you can’t do, rather than valuing what you can do.

  (Watts and Morgan, The Coach’s Casebook, 2015)


Have you ever had these thoughts and feelings? How do they hold you back?

The good news is that imposter syndrome can be overcome. One of my coaching clients who is the CEO of a medium sized charity tried these tactics during the month leading up to a tricky Board meeting and found that they absolutely changed his mind set and increased his confidence.

Here are three simple steps that can work wonders in banishing Imposter Syndrome from your life:

1.     Focus on your strengths. How much clarity do you have about your positive attributes, skills and characteristics? By recognising your strengths, you are better able to play to them and utilise them fully. When we are playing to our strengths, we are usually energised, feeling more fulfilled and have greater belief that we are good enough.

To help you identify your strengths, I encourage you to reflect on a specific day when you were at your absolute best. A time when you were in your element, performing well and feeling buoyed up. Consider the answers to these questions, jot down words, phrases, pictures that come to mind:

–          What feelings were you experiencing?

–          What did you do to make it such a successful day?

–          What characteristics were you using? E.g. were you being kind, being energetic, showing good attention to detail….

–          If someone independent was observing you, what words would they use to describe you?

Use this example to identify your top 5 strengths. What ‘Big Words’ (e.g. Creative, Honest, Dynamic…) would you use to describe yourself when at your best. Focus on the value you bring.

Keep these strengths close to hand (I save mine on my phone and in the front of my notebook so that I see them regularly!). Gradually, with repeat exposure, you will gain greater clarity and strength of mind as to what it is about you that makes you a great leader.


2.     Seek feedback.

Are you someone who brushes off a compliment or focuses more on negative feedback than positive?

I invite you to ask 5 people (or more!), (whose opinions you respect and trust) from different areas of your life the following questions:

–          What one word or phrase describes me best?

–          What do you think is my greatest achievement?

–          What do you value most about me?

–          What one thing could I change for my own benefit?

–          What do you believe to be my greatest strength?


When faced with compelling and consistent feedback, it is hard to argue with it. On an ongoing basis, I would encourage you to practice accepting compliments and speaking positively about yourself.

I guarantee that you will receive insights that reconfirm that you are good enough, and more than that – you’re simply great!


3.     Fake it until you become it!

Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes – body language really can change how you feel and who you become. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that “power posing” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can boost feelings of confidence, and might have an impact on our chances for success.

I call it my gremlin. That little voice that sits on your shoulder offering unhelpful criticisms and trying to catch you out. If you have experienced this too, spend two minutes in a Power Pose with a big smile on your face. Amy Cuddy’s terrific TED talk discusses the details.


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