…..and why we need to increase our comfort with reasonable doubt and modesty.

Our fascination with Imposter Phenomenon (IP) seems to be part of our preoccupation with confidence as a critical component of leadership. That’s what makes it doubly challenging for women, who, in most studies in organisational settings, appear more likely to experience the three components of IP – feeling fraudulent, fearing discovery and having difficulty internalising success.

Confidence, and certainly too much confidence – arrogance – erodes achievement and success. Yet we seem captivated by the association of confidence and leadership, to our detriment. At its worst, it holds us captive to charismatic, narcissistic leaders. Just think about how we analysed the politicians in Australia in the run-up to the Federal election……..

We are more likely to believe confident people have leadership potential. We are uncomfortable listening to people express doubts or identify problems (‘don’t bring me a problem, bring me a solution!’), even if they are voicing their concerns BECAUSE they are competent.

Confidence doesn’t always boost performance, even though we believe it does. Arrogance increases mistakes which puts organisations at risk. It is contagious, which multiplies its impact; Enron and Volkswagon are familiar examples.

Most competent people tend to underestimate their expertise; the more you know, the more aware you become of how much there is to know.

‘Unconfident’, let’s call them humble, competent people prepare more for leadership roles, are more cautious and look for risks and obstacles, which improves their performance. Their modesty might keep them out of the limelight – how big a problem is that? Well it is a problem for identifying them as being leadership material!

Organisations are better off when their leaders are aware of their own limitations, admit to their fallibility, and have the humility to listen to the views of others. Let’s stop labelling that as Imposter Phenomenon and welcome modesty.

We can get better at expressing doubt, and accepting a degree of reasonable doubt as particularly helpful for making better organisational decisions. And when identifying future leaders, and those with leadership potential, we are better off looking outside of the limelight and finding the quiet, modest achievers.

Book a call with me today to find out how my Executive Coaching helps you to make the most of your talents, modestly.

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