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How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome’s Unhelpful Voice

This article was based on episode 119 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the chance to win a free 30-minute coaching call with Todd Palmer when you become a member at by October 6, 2020.

Imposter syndrome seems to be on everyone’s minds these days. Todd Palmer - executive coach, keynote speaker, and renowned thought leader - estimates that eighty five to ninety percent of us deal with imposter syndrome at one point or another. The good news is it’s manageable, we just have to put it in its place. The best way to do that, however, is by doing something so many managers resist; admitting we don’t know all the answers and that we need help. Palmer fills us in on the simple, professional ways managers can quiet their imposter syndrome “doom loop” by showing up as their awesome, authentic, imperfect selves.


First introduced as a concept in 1979, imposter syndrome is understood to be when someone doubts their accomplishments or talents, and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It’s that thought you have in a meeting of “Who am I to lead these people?” or “why should anyone listen to me?” Our inner critic is a collaborator and coauthor with our imposter syndrome. If our inner critic says “I’m not good at this”, our imposter syndrome joins in with “Wait until everyone finds out that I’m faking it.” These thought patterns can either stop us from moving forward or limit us from performing as our best selves.


Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to completely rid ourselves of this negative voice running through our heads. The key is to not let it take over. Here’s how to do just that.

Change Your Mental Approach

  • Take Action! We usually think that motivation comes first and action second, but it’s actually the opposite. From a neuroscience point of view, actions create the momentum that creates the motivation. Todd suggests imagining yourself switching seats with that negative voice in your head. Literally put it in the passenger seat. They might still chatter away about how you’re a fraud, but you’ve got control of the wheel. You get to drive by taking the actions you want to take, focusing on your next steps instead of your fears.

  • Change Your Expectations. It’s helpful to remember that no one is great at everything. As Todd puts it, we all have our own zone of genius, the place where we personally shine. Maybe we can’t be both the visionary and the execution person, and that’s OK. By adjusting your self-expectations, you can stop feeling pressured to be good at it all.

  • Think About Doing It For Someone Else. The self-focus of needing to figure it out all on your own often lessens when you focus on something beyond yourself. Todd found that many leaders find the strength to move forward despite imposter syndrome when they are focused on doing it for their team or their family rather than for themselves. Anchor your motivation to something or someone that you’re passionate about.

Approach Your Team Differently

  • Use Massive Curiosity. Imposter syndrome can interfere by telling us we need to have all the answers. The issue is that too often we don't fully understand the problem. Todd advocates approaching everything with massive curiosity. Through curiosity, you can create space for your team members to open up about anything, personally or professionally, that is affecting their work. Approaching a situation or person with massive curiosity means saying “tell me more” three to five times before giving advice.

  • Role Model Vulnerability. Oftentimes, employees resist approaching their managers due to their own imposter syndrome. If a team member feels they must have all of the answers, they will avoid honest communication with their boss. However, a manager who embraces that she doesn’t know everything and visibly reaches out for help role models to her staff that it is a psychologically safe space for them to be imperfect and to reach out as well.

Todd is witnessing that one of the biggest opportunities within the tragedy of COVID is how many leaders are stepping out from behind the curtain and asking for help. When leaders show up as their authentic selves, team members respond. They want to reciprocate by revealing their own authentic selves and helping out in whatever way they can.

While it may be hard to internalize, in reality, it is the imperfect, authentic leaders who ultimately earn their teams’ trust and become great managers. To be successful, we need to put imposter syndrome in its place - the back seat!


Get the chance to win a 30-minute coaching call with Todd when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at by October 6, 2020.

This article was based on episode 119 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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