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  • Writer's pictureRoo Davies

5 Ways that Imposter Syndrome can Affect Leaders

Imposter syndrome can have a profound effect on even the most successful leaders out there. That nagging self-doubt making you feel like a fraud despite your accomplishments, can become a major roadblock.

The blog shines a spotlight on the five common ways in which imposter syndrome can hold leaders back:


1. Self-Doubt Limbo

Leaders are juggling multiple responsibilities, but their inner critic keeps whispering, "You don't deserve this role." Imposter syndrome can leave them perpetually second-guessing themselves, feeling like they're playing an elaborate game of pretend.

Imposter syndrome chips away at a leader's confidence, making them doubt their abilities and achievements. This lack of confidence can hinder their decision-making and stifle their assertiveness.

2. Reluctant Risk-Taking

Imagine leaders being hesitant to take bold actions or make daring decisions, fearing that any misstep will expose them as a fraud. This fear of failure can lead to a reluctance to take on new challenges or stretch outside of their comfort zone.

From being overly cautious, they might resist innovative ideas or initiatives, playing it safe to maintain the illusion of competence rather than embracing calculated risks that could drive growth and success. They might miss out on exciting opportunities afraid that their perceived incompetence might be revealed.

3. Micromanagement Mayhem

Leaders can struggle to delegate effectively, resistant to trust their team members fully and compelled to oversee every detail of a project or task. Their imposter syndrome is leading them to believe that nobody else can handle the tasks as well as they can so this is a way that they can maintain control and prevent any perceived mistakes.

Consequently, and unintentionally, they stifle their team's creativity and growth. This micromanagement not only limits the growth and autonomy of their team members but also exhausts the leader, creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt and anxiety.

4. Praise Paranoia

Leaders can cringe when they receive praise or recognition. Imposter syndrome can make them believe they're undeserving of compliments, leading to a fear of being "found out" and labelled as a fraud. Their inner imposter will be saying “They don’t really mean that. They are just being nice.”

Accepting recognition becomes a real challenge which can have a huge impact on confidence and self-worth.

5. Perfectionist Pitfall

Leaders can be relentlessly striving for perfection in every endeavour. Imposter syndrome can fuel a constant need to prove oneself, creating an unrelenting pressure to achieve flawlessness.

This perfectionist mindset can be mentally and emotionally draining. The constant and excessive self-imposed pressure to meet unrealistic standards and prove themselves can be the culprit of chronic stress and burnout, not only harming their own well-being but can also trickle down to their team, affecting morale, productivity, and overall team dynamics.


Even the most accomplished leaders can experience imposter syndrome from time to time. It's important to recognise how it can show up and find ways to address it, fostering a healthier and more confident leadership style.

Coaching, self-reflection, and seeking support from mentors or peers can all be powerful strategies to overcome the grip of imposter syndrome and unlock true potential as impactful leaders.


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