Overcoming Impostor Syndrome | Omega

Gloria Feldt, cofounder and president of Take The Lead, shares how reflecting on your past can help you lead with authenticity and overcome impostor syndrome.

Omega: What advice do you have for leaders who are trying to figure out how to lead from a place of authenticity?

Gloria: It's a lifelong learning process. We shouldn't beat ourselves up for not knowing what our authentic self is. There's always something else to learn and that's what makes this work so exciting and rewarding.

Omega: Why is it so important for leaders to examine their past and map their future?

Gloria: The first in my nine power tools is: “Know your history and you can create the future of your choice.” Part of it is knowing who you are, what you come from, and what has shaped you. That part of it is straightforward. Then there's coming to terms with this past.

There's an exercise we do in my workshops where we have women dive deep and diagram their power journeys. We ask, "What are the defining moments of your life that have shaped you? What are the defining moments—ones you may not even be aware of—that have kept you back, held you down, or kept you from realizing your best and strongest and most creative self?" It takes time to answer these questions. You've got to really be willing to go in and go deep.

The reason it's so important to do this has to do with the difference between leading, managing, and supervising.

Supervising is daily, front line, important work that enables people. You're empowering people to deliver their best work. 

Managers have to understand the organization's vision and strategy, but they're not necessarily the person making it. Managers assemble the human resources and the other kinds of resources that the organization needs, or that you and your business need to accomplish the goals.

A leader has to see beyond today. And to see beyond today, you have to know who you are and what's motivating you. You have to be able to separate wheat from chaff and real from not so real. You have to be able to take risks. You have to understand what your own risk taking capacity is. You have to know where you have blind spots because you can make really bad strategic decisions if you don't know what your blind spots are.

Leaders take on immense amounts of responsibility. But in exchange for that, they have the opportunity to make important things happen. That means you, as a leader, have an obligation to other people. You need to know where your blind spots are, where your skills are, and where you need to bring in other people who have different skills because of those blind spots. That's why it's important to know yourself.

The other thing is, let's face it, the higher you go on the leadership platform, the more vulnerable you are to criticism. The more vulnerable you are to getting fired. So if you know who you are, and you know what your values are, and you know what matters to you, then you know when you can take a stand. Do it authentically and people will respect you for that. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose and you'll know that it's okay. It's not about you as a human. 

Omega: What is your leadership blind spot?

Gloria: My blind spot is that I always think everything can be done faster and with less money than it can. I think anything can be done—anything. If we can envision it, we can do it. And we can do it tomorrow. And we can do it with fewer people and less money than ultimately ends up being the case. And I have to relearn that lesson all the time.

That is my blind spot, but it's also what's enabled me to do some really amazing things in my life. But it's important for me to know that that's my blind spot so that I will ask for feedback. I will get other people to look at the plan. 

Omega: There are so many leaders, especially women leaders, that have impostor syndrome. What is your advice to those people who don't feel ready or qualified to take the next step in their leadership journey?

Gloria: Do it anyway. I love what Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." The only way to get over impostor syndrome is to go do stuff. It's like when you go to the gym. The only way to get stronger is to do the exercises. The good thing about workshops or trainings is that you get to exercise those muscles in a safe space, and that's a good thing to do. But ultimately you have to get out there in the world and do it. I can guarantee you, the more you do it, the stronger you feel, and the more you realize you can do it.

These insecurities are actually a good thing. They may be part of why women are a little more risk-averse than men. They keep us from making some of the more rash business decisions that often cause trouble.

I don't want women to use imposter syndrome as a crutch. Let's say you're not feeling like you really have all that you need to be able to take on this next task. Let's make a plan. What do you need to get those skills? Let's go do it. Don't wallow in, "Oh I'm not ready." Take one step. Just take one step. You don't have to eat the whole elephant. Take one step. 

© 2018 Omega Insitute for Holistic Studies

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