Tag Archives: impostor syndrome

Insecure leaders — generous leaders?

Studies show.

Two words that ought to send your critical-thinking apparatus into overdrive.

Trapeze artist flying through the airIn this case, according to a report from Forbes writer Adi Gaskell, studies show that insecure leaders — those who say they experience impostor syndrome — are less selfish and more generous than other leaders. (Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re unqualified for the work you’re doing.)

Aware of their own shortcomings, the studies suggest, these leaders will forgive similar shortcomings in the people they lead. They even tend to delegate more work to employees who feel unworthy than to those who are confident and self-assured.

Gaskell writes, “The research found that when leaders suffer from impostor syndrome, they are more likely to be generous to others as they try and alleviate any perceived unfairness in their ascent to power.”

My own experience

That’s totally opposite to what I’ve experienced in my own career.

Of the leaders I’ve worked for (and with), it’s the insecure ones who act defensively and who are least likely to be generous. To a greater or lesser degree, they’re busy protecting their authority — which they often feel they gained unjustly — and trying to hide their deficiencies.

Leaders who are confident and self-assured, I’ve found, are much more generous: less apt to insist that everything be done their way, more willing to help when needed, more likely to deflect praise.

Confidence opens the door to true humility (not self-doubt) and servant leadership.

I’d much rather have a leader who’s confident than one who’s insecure. And so would you, I’ll bet.

Yet studies show the opposite to be true. So what’s going on? Here are some suggestions. Continue reading

On the wild trail: When you don’t feel prepared

Book cover: WildIn her best-seller Wild (which was recently made into a movie), author Cheryl Strayed recounts her experiences as a young woman hiking alone for 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although woefully underprepared when she began — a fact she readily admits — Strayed stayed the course and found the experience to be life altering.

As technical communicators, sometimes we’re thrust into jobs for which we feel underprepared. Maybe we land a new writing gig for which we don’t know the subject matter. Maybe we take on new roles and responsibilities to keep from being expendable. Maybe, as in the extreme example of Tina the Tech Writer, we have 45 minutes to learn how to be a database analyst.

When this happens to us, we might need to avoid the trap of the impostor syndrome. We can also learn from Cheryl Strayed’s experiences on the trail. Continue reading

I’m an impostor – and that’s OK

Impostor syndrome. It’s when, as a professional, you feel like you’re totally unqualified for the work you do and you’re terrified that people are going to find out.

Trapeze artist flying through the airAccording to Wikipedia, researchers tell us that “two out of five successful people [are affected by impostor syndrome] and…70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.”

Wanna know a secret, based on what I’ve observed during my career? If 30 percent say they never feel like impostors, I can promise you that most of them are lying.

Practically all of us feel like impostors sometimes, and there’s a good reason: we don’t know what we’re doing. Continue reading