Imposter syndrome is characterized by persistent feeling of inadequacy or fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite objective evidence success. The term was first coined in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes and thought to be associated only with women, but subsequent research has shown men can experience imposter syndrome as well. Imposter syndrome tends to be situation-specific, and about 70% of the population reports experiencing it at some point.
Imposter syndrome may be most likely to occur in new situations (e.g., starting an EMBA program, starting a new job, receiving a promotion). When experiencing imposter syndrome, people may be more likely to attribute their successes to luck or other external factors, and they may feel unworthy of good outcomes in professional or personal circumstances.
This collection of materials is designed to help leaders understand what imposter syndrome is, normalize the experience, identify potential causes, and provide strategies for addressing personal experiences of imposter syndrome or mentoring someone else encountering imposter syndrome.
It is important that leaders do not let feelings of imposter syndrome hold them back or limit their current effectiveness or future opportunities. Imposter syndrome is not a clinical definition (it is not an actual syndrome) or a stable characteristic; this means it is something that can be changed. An easy way to remember this is that imposter syndrome is situational. Five resources and some honorable mentions are provided here to support leaders in recognizing and overcoming imposter syndrome.