5 for 5 blog – Feeling like an impostor?

9 Feb


Good morning everyone.

Roughly six months ago I made a major career move. I went from a large company, where I was in the second level of leadership to a slightly smaller company, but in the top role. And now, admittedly, I feel like an imposter. By being an impostor, I don’t mean that I have falsified any information about myself…rather, there are times, it seems more frequently, where I feel way over my head.

The upside with this, is that the more reading I do about being a leader and being creative is that EVERYONE feels this way…at least those people that are pushing themselves and the status quo in their job, their company, and their industry. In fact, this phenomenon, may be one of the most written about topics for creatives. Here are just a few I would offer:

From “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon:

“You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome’. The clinical definition is a ‘psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.’ It means that you feel like a phony, like you are just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.

Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.”

From “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield:

“Self doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. ‘Am I really an artist?’ The counterfeit innovator is wildly self confident. The real one is scared to death.”

From Todd Henry’s blog post:

“This is a common issue (feeling like an impostor) with creative pros, though we tend to believe that it goes away once a measure of success has been achieved. In my experience working with creatives and leaders at the highest levels of the business world, let me assure you that it often does not. The key is to follow your convictions even in the face of the inevitable uncertainty. While the fear of being “found out” never goes away, you learn over time to deal with it through action rather than allowing it to rob you of your engagement.”

So if you are reading to this and can relate as a leader in a new position, or just someone trying to grow in your organization, take heart, you and I are in very good company. And I as I have been thinking about how to make a difference in my new role, despite the uncertainty or “not having all the answers”, I wanted to offer some ideas on how I am facing down imposter syndrome:

  • If you are pushing ahead, it should feel uncomfortable
    • As I mentioned above, if we are pushing against the status quo, it is supposed to feel awkward and uncomfortable. To make a difference means challenging old ideas and creating change, not just for change’s sake, but to enable your team, your organization, and your company to go to great heights.
  • What’s your WHY
    • As anyone that has followed this blog long enough knows, I am a big believer in identifying your WHY. WHY do you do what you do? WHY does the organization that you lead exist? Start by answering those questions. Write them down. They are your north star, especially when the doubt and craziness sets in.
  • Believe in your team
    • Forget about trying to be the lone ranger. Those people don’t exist, even though they may try to tell you that they do. Believe in your people. Understand what talent exists and help them grow. They will help show you the ropes as you are figuring out your way. Focus on results as you learn the process.
  • “Not knowing” isn’t the issue, “never knowing” is
    • The reason you were likely hired isn’t to do what has been done before…the reason you were hired is to take the team in new directions. As mentioned in the comments by the authors above, that means tons of uncertainty. Thus, every day is a day to learn. If you have to say “I don’t know”, that may not a bad answer, but follow up quickly with what you can find out.  Never stop learning. And once you have, pass on what you have learned.


Certainly this is not an exhaustive set of options, but I hope it is a starting point for you. If you have any other tips that you would recommend for busting through “impostor syndrome” and “The Resistance” as Pressfield calls it, please leave a note in the comments section.

Here’s this week’s 5 for 5:

The Spark File – by Steven Johnson – via Medium


SO WHAT: A concept that I have heard before to log all of the little thoughts and ideas popping into your mind during a day. The interesting twist is the suggestion of the dedicated review process.

Tags: Creativity, Ideas


Rarely do people question success in the same way they do failure – by Laura Vanderkam – via lauravandercam.com


SO WHAT: You will never have a problem assembling a group of people to analyze a “failure”. But how often do we really peel back a few layers of success to see what is really driving that. This is not to be a wet blanket, but to truly ask the questions to uncover the sources that led to your positive outcomes.

Tags: Growth, Success


How to Build a Meaningful Career – by Amy Gallo – via Harvard Business Review


SO WHAT: If you work strictly for a paycheck, this article was not written for you. If you work at something you enjoy (even love) and hope to make a difference, this one will be worth hanging on to. (For more, scroll down to the comments in this article…..I often don’t comment online, but this topic is near and dear to me.)

Tags: Career, Significance


How to break down the barriers and allow intrapreneurs to flourish – by Peter Cook – via virgin.com


SO WHAT: With so many articles being written about how to be successful at innovation today, I often go back to articles or videos on companies that empower their employees to be “internal entrepreneurs” or “firestarters” as per this article. If you are a manager, this is a worthwhile read, especially the part on time and timing. If you are an individual contributor, consider this your hall pass to start something!

Tags: Innovation, Creativity, StartSomething


Unleash Your Hidden Productivity: Give Yourself ‘Think Time’ – by Chris Winfield – via Inc.


SO WHAT: Another great article about encouraging and cultivating creativity, including a technique that would definitely be worth some additional consideration. If you try it out, please do let me know.

Tags: Creativity, Productivity


All the best, kevin

One thought on “5 for 5 blog – Feeling like an impostor?

  1. Feeling like an imposter…I have been examining my reasons for feeling like an imposter. Been the GM for 18 months and still often wonder, how did I get here? I think it may be that I am living a dichotomy. My work-self is focused, serious, concise, maybe a little manly. I try to exude confidence and probably come across as quite serious. We make protective clothing for the military, so it’s not a jovial product line or customer base.
    At home, I am a fun-loving wife spending time playing pingpong and drinking wine with friends while we pine about vacations or other fun topics, as well as being a mother of a sweet sassy toddler so I spend much of my time laughing, playing, being silly and childlike. I truly believe that both sides to myself are genuine, but perhaps I need to find ways to be a little more fun-loving at the office to feel more genuine. My serious side will come out at home when she’s a teenager, I’m sure!

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