Last week, I was visiting with an energy executive about his thoughts on leading others. First, we discussed leveraging assessment tools that accurately predict workplace behavior. These are tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or the Predictive Index System.
Using these type of tools, some leaders gain in-depth understanding of their team members’ strengths and weaknesses. This understanding helps them manage the behaviors and performances of employees. For instance, they may want to assign a complex, fast-moving project to “Team Member A” who is strategic and decisive rather than “Team Member B” who does best with structured activities having clearly defined deadlines.
Then, our topic moved on to ensuring that diversity of thought occurs in strategic planning sessions. The energy executive said these sessions are more effective and certainly more interesting, if you invite people with different perspectives, skill levels and varying approaches.
But, it was our last subject that really surprised me. We talked about leaders who are high achievers and legitimately experts in their industries, yet personally they feel like imposters. Dr. Gail Matthews from the Dominican College in California estimates that approximately 70 percent of all people have suffered from “Imposter Syndrome” at one time or another in their careers.
Individuals who suffer from the Imposter Syndrome display the following behaviors*: Difficulty accepting praise as being genuine; feeling that peers with the same responsibilities are somehow more qualified or better at their jobs; afraid of new responsibilities or challenges because they’re afraid of failure; abnormal reaction to constructive criticism; and anxiety over others “seeing through” their lack of ability.
This subject is gaining buzz among both men and women. In fact, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg covered the Imposter Syndrome concept in her recently released book, Lean In.
Another author, Dr. Valerie Young, offered a few suggestions in Fast Company magazine on “how to” manage the Imposter Syndrome. She encourages people to try to keep track of what triggers their Imposter Syndrome. Then, learn to identify those thoughts and actions as not being based in reality.
Another thing to do when a person feels like a fraud is find trusted business colleagues who can help him or her work through the negative internal dialogue. Dr. Young also suggested instead of dwelling on situations that turned out badly, think about how to do things differently if faced with them again. Focus on positive future changes rather than past negatives.
The Imposter Syndrome is a fascinating topic. I certainly didn’t anticipate it coming up during a discussion on leadership. Yet, if 70 percent of people have suffered from this condition during their careers, it’s a worthy subject to bring up or increase awareness among business leaders.
*SOURCE: Fast Company magazine