Many years ago as a young leader I did a weeklong residential training program at Mt Eliza Business School. One of our activities was a full-day simulation where we were given roles in a fictitious company and handed an ‘in-tray’ of documents to read the night before. As the youngest in the group, I became very uptight about whether I could carry off the next day and as a consequence hardly slept.
After breakfast we moved to the company offices (a separate building on site) and the activity began. During the day the situation changed as faxes arrived (remember those?) and other things happened, to prompt a shift in dynamics. It was a challenging day. Everyone else seemed to be across the brief, while I felt completely out of my depth. When the day finally ended and the bar opened I was intensively relieved.
The next day the facilitator guided us in small groups feedback sessions. The feedback I was given astounded me. Everyone commented on my confidence and the way I was able to roll easily with all the changes of the day. How I felt inside wasn’t how I appeared on the outside! My next shock was that others who I saw as being so in control actually felt just as uncomfortable as I did!
It turns out there is a term for that – Imposter Syndrome. Being in the privileged role I have now of working with senior leaders and leadership teams, I know that we all feel Imposter Syndrome at some point or another, and it’s exhausting.
How well equipped is your leadership team to deal with this, and empower everyone to be at their best? Is your team a safe place where you (and others) can admit when you don’t have the answers? Is it really okay to take risks and make mistakes? Is diversity of thought and style appreciated and leveraged?
I saw this sign at Bangkok airport recently – I reckon Fearless Leadership teams are like ‘Recomposure Areas’ – a safe space where everyone has each other’s backs.