Feel Like You Are Faking It as a Leader?
Last week I was blown away when an executive whom I respect as a leader said to me: “To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time.”
What is most surprising is that this Fortune 500 general manager is an excellent leader. His staff raves about his leadership, especially how he inspires and encourages them to take on new challenges that helps them grow right along with the company.
Sadly, he’s not alone when it comes to feeling like a reluctant or accidental leader. I see it demonstrated over and over again in the C-level suite as well as departments throughout companies that I work with. Plain and simple, it’s a negative habit that a lot of people use.
As I listen carefully to their stories, these professionals actually tell me that they have very little to do with their success. Somehow it just materialized for them. They were lucky. No one else wanted to do their job so they stepped forward. They just happen to be good at “fooling” others. That one project that went particularly well was a fluke. And so it goes with the infinite variations on the accidental leader story.
And it isn’t limited to the corporate world. High achieving celebrities like comic Tina Fey and author Maya Angelo admit to being plagued by feeling like an imposter during their career. Self-doubt has impacted actor Gerard Butler (Phantom of the Opera and other movies). When asked if ever thought he was a fraud, he said: “Maybe 18 hours a day. Do I spend more time damning myself than promoting myself? Absolutely.”
If you have ever felt this way, then welcome to the club. Clearly, you are in good company with millions of other successful men and women who have fallen into this accidental frame of mind trap.
Stop selling yourself short and playing small
Even though it’s normal, stop all the doubt, especially the focus on your flaws. It’s time to stand up for your authentic self. Let your values guide your leadership. Show people around you that it’s okay to be a strong, capable and confident leader.
Encourage others to see an opportunity to change things for the better and go for it. Take all your hard fought battles and help others learn from them. Share what really helped you, and what held you back big time. Talk about what techniques work best for you. And ask others what works best for them. Share the good and the bad; they’re both valuable. Apologize when things go wrong. But please don’t pretend you have little going for you.
Why? It’s not all about you. Remember, it’s your duty to pay it forward. Help people coming up around you to make the contribution they’re here to make, too. They need your leadership more than ever.
Show others how it’s done. Let them see you shine. No need to be all bragging, which is what you likely fear. Instead, model what humble, vulnerable, strong leadership looks like. Stand tall in who you are and tell a more powerful story about your leadership.
How? Stop describing what you can’t do. What you didn’t do. What you don’t do very well. What you’re missing. How others are better. How sometimes you don’t speak up.
Accept my challenge now to tell a bolder story
1. Declare what you stand for. Let others know you are proud to lead, what vision you have and what values you hold.
2. Think strategically about what has made you successful (and what has stopped you along the way). Then create a new story to help guide others to come up the ranks with you.
3. Be positive. Foster a culture of optimism. Talk about what is possible. What you have accomplished. Where you get the most ROI for your efforts. And for God’s sake stop focusing on all the terrible, awful problems that will never go away.
Get busy. Start making a difference. Be a model of what leadership CAN be. And light the path for others to follow.