Battling Doubt: How to Navigate Imposter Syndrome as a Boss

Most of us are well-acquainted with the numerous challenges that come with leadership. One that all of us face from time to time is Impostor Syndrome – a phenomenon where individuals doubt their accomplishments and constantly fear being exposed as a "fraud." 


I definitely have felt it myself and we’ve coached our clients through it over here at People Principles. To my core, I believe that the majority of managers DESPERATELY WANT to be good managers and they’re not given the benefit of the doubt often enough. They’re also not given the empathy they deserve about the mental grit and mindset work it takes to become a good boss. 


I wanted to take a few minutes to share what I’ve learned personally, as I’ve found myself in a leadership seat over the years. While I may not be leading a team now, every week I’m coaching our clients  on some of these things and/or working through them myself as I’m actually being the coach - yes… I get imposter syndrome helping others work through imposter syndrome! 😂


How Imposter Syndrome Shows Up for Leaders

Impostor Syndrome can arise when you've shown expertise in a particular area, and suddenly, you're expected to lead. This transition from being an expert in email marketing, for instance, to leading a team can be daunting. The same goes for founders. You might start a business based on a skill you're good at, only to find yourself managing people unexpectedly.


Even with evidence suggesting your competency, you might find yourself thinking, "Am I truly qualified? Could someone else do this better?"


Here are some ways that it may show up for you at work.

Sometimes they’re glaringly obvious and sometimes, they can be subtle:

  • Overworking: Feeling the need to constantly prove your worth by putting in more hours.
  • Hesitation to Delegate: Believing you must do everything to ensure perfection or fearing that seeking help might reveal your inadequacies.
  • Avoiding Decision Making: Putting off crucial decisions due to fear of making an error.
  • Downplaying Your Achievements: Crediting success to luck or the efforts of others and not taking accountability for failures.
  • Fear of Feedback: Seeing feedback sessions as potential opportunities for others to discover your inadequacies.
  • Overcompensating: Trying to know everything or pretending to have all the answers.
  • Perfectionism: Setting high, often unrealistic standards for yourself and your team.
  • Overthinking Communication: Analyzing every conversation, concerned about others' perceptions.


Here are some ways you can work through it when you notice it…
  • Reframe Your Thoughts: Understand that Impostor Syndrome is common. Challenge the negative beliefs with evidence-based thinking.
  • Seek Feedback: Engage in conversations with peers, mentors, or executive coaches. Understanding others' perspectives can offer clarity.
  • Talk About It: Connect with someone you trust, be it a mentor, fellow founder, or executive coach. Sharing experiences and feelings can be incredibly therapeutic.


Embracing the fact that you're still learning is vital. It's okay to not have all the answers. What makes the biggest difference is knowing how to spot when it’s showing up so it doesn’t sabotage you and finding the support you need when it does.


I want to open our inbox and our DMs to you personally. When you’re in need of some support or some simple words of encouragement PLEASE reach out. We’ll always be the cheerleaders you need. Being a boss is f’ing hard and we’ve got your back.