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3 Leadership Development Tips for Overcoming Self-Doubt



Everyone experiences self-doubt – and yes, even the most successful leaders doubt themselves too. According to research, approximately 70% of people experience “imposter syndrome” (feelings of inadequacy or feelings of incompetence) at least once in their lives (Salkulku & Alexander, 2011). When it comes to overcoming self-doubt, the key is not how well self-doubt is being silenced, but rather, how it is handled during personal moments of weakness. Whether you are a new leader, a young leader, or a seasoned leader, know that feelings of inadequacy are normal, and, with a bit of effort, can be managed. Here are three leadership development tips for overcoming self-doubt in the workplace.


Leadership Development Tip #1: Acknowledge Your Thoughts of Self-Doubt and Put Them into Perspective


One of the first steps to overcoming self-doubt is to acknowledge that negative thoughts of ourselves exist. Then, put them into perspective. In fact, ignoring these thoughts do more harm to us than good. Research shows that when we don’t acknowledge our thoughts and emotions, we actually end up making these thoughts stronger (The University of Texas at Austin, 2011). We can critically question our self-doubts by pausing and observing these thoughts as they come up and then, learn to let them go.


Leadership Development Tip #2: Talk to Someone About Your Feelings of Self-Doubt


A good strategy to eliminate feelings of self-doubt is to lean into a community of people we trust and to whom we can talk. Talking with someone gives us an outside perspective of what we are going through, especially if that someone has been in our position or has more experience than us. Richard Branson, the famous and successful Virgin Group CEO, also admits to feelings of self-doubt and advises the importance of discussing these feelings with trusted friends and colleagues while getting their feedback (McKeever, 2021). He states that if we become more confident after working through our self-doubt, we should push our doubts aside and move forward with what we set out to do without hesitation (McKeever, 2021). By talking over our feelings of self-doubt with our trusted network, we can get a better idea of how we should handle them.


Leadership Development Tip #3: Feel the Fear but Do it Anyway


As long as we continue to grow in our leadership development journey, our personal fears and our feelings of self-doubt never really go away. According to Susan Jeffers, every time we stretch ourselves and take the next step, there will always be fear (Jeffers, 2019). While feeling fearful of the unknown is uncomfortable, it can be a good indicator that we are raising ourselves to the next level. The truth is, we already possess the skills and characteristics of everything and anything we aspire to be. We’re simply testing these skills in somewhat unfamiliar territory. So, what can we do about this? Jeffers suggests dealing with the fear by doing it anyways (Jeffers, 2019). When we overcome challenges, we build self-confidence (Jeffers, 2019). Each time we confront our fears, we either master a new skill or learn a new lesson – outcomes that make us better leaders in the long run.


Bringing It All Together


In conclusion, experiencing self-doubt is a normal part of the leadership development journey. Dealing with personal self-doubt can be difficult, but with a bit of effort, can be something we can overcome. Most often than not, our feelings of self-doubt are all in our heads. Don’t suppress these thoughts, instead acknowledge them and use them as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. We will never know our true potential and what we are capable of unless we overcome our feelings of self-doubt and use them as a chance to grow and become better leaders.


References

Jeffers, S. (2019). Feel the fear and do it anyway. Vermilion.

McKeever, V. (2021, July 27). Billionaire Richard Branson has this advice for overcoming self-doubt. CNBC. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/27/billionaire-richard-branson-has-this-advice-for-overcoming-self-doubt.html

Sakulku, J., & Alexander, J. (2011). The imposter phenomenon. International Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1). https://so06.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/IJBS/article/view/521/pdf

The University of Texas at Austin. (2011, March 24). Psychologists find the meaning of aggression: 'Monty Python' scene helps research. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 6, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110323105202.htm

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