How to deal with imposter syndrome

Written by
Arun Singh and Mike Mister

30 Nov 2019

30 Nov 2019 • by Arun Singh and Mike Mister

That feeling of not being good enough can affect the smartest of leaders. Arun Singh and Mike Mister offer tips for coping with a crisis of confidence. 


1. Be realistic

Ground your assessments of situations and circumstances in reality and ask people you trust whether they see things the same way. What is their analysis? Why might their view differ to yours? 

2. Check your history

Reflect on times where you have had to deal with similar situations in the past. How did you do so? What skills and capabilities did you use? What did you learn from them? The better your awareness of your own strengths, the more likely it is that you will find ways to resolve present issues. 

3. Be vulnerable

Share your concerns with your people, they don’t expect you to know everything. Vulnerability is ok; copping out isn’t, nor is ploughing on regardless. Give yourself permission to be unsure from time to time. 

4. Trust your team

Building high-performing teams gives you additional resources on which to draw. Strong, diverse teams bring together different skills and perspectives. Ask for their input and advice. 

5. Stop comparing

How others have dealt with situations is not a helpful comparison. True, there may be some overt similarity and even things to learn, but humans are individual beings and how others make sense of their world, and view their problems, will vary. People also have different skills, knowledge and experience to bring to bear. Look instead to your own past and what you have learned from your missteps and successes. 

6. Focus on what you’re good at

Focus on making the most of your skills and talents, the things you’re especially good at. Relate those skills to your successes in the past and draw strength from that. You were able to do it before; there is probably no reason why you cannot be successful now. 

7. Check your ‘mind talk’ 

What are you saying to yourself in your head? Are things really that bad? Replace extremes with the moderate and realistic reflections. Things are invariably better than they seem. 

8. See mistakes as ‘mis-takes’ 

See a mistake for what it is – a signal – and do something different as a result. Mistakes are part of the human learning process and a sign that a course of action has not worked out as expected. Things are neither inherently good or bad, just more or less effective. and successes. 

9. Stop attributing success or failure to unseen forces

Luck, fate (or however you phrase it) should have no place in your thinking. Luck is simply being attuned to circumstances and realising the probabilities that can be exploited. 

10. Show self confidence

Talk straight, hold yourself upright, ensure your posture looks confident to others. Being self- confident is an attribute that people expect in their leaders and it’s attractive to other people. It’s the self-assurance that comes from being able to say to oneself, honestly, “I know I am able to do x, y, or z”.

11. Pretend you are good at it anyway 

Rehearse confident behaviour, walking tall, speaking clearly and firmly, listening intently, controlling nervous mannerisms, breathing deeply. By acting in a certain manner, we assume these characteristics. To misquote Socrates: “If we act confidently, we become confident.” 


This article is an edited extract from How to Lead Smart People: Leadership for Professionals by Arun Singh and Mike Mister and published by Profile Books