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Updated: October 2, 2023 Guest column - Advice

Overcoming imposter syndrome

Leading from within is certainly not a new idea. Leaders at all levels struggle to make a self-aware change necessary to be a better leader, yet they often are unable to enjoy lasting improvements. Reprogramming the subconscious mind is always part of the solution. Self-hypnosis, which is simply focused attention and autosuggestion, is key to resolving those inner issues, usually birthed in childhood and young adult experiences.

a photo of Bob Martel
Photo | Courtesy Bob Martel
Bob Martel

Leadership self-improvement enables and unlocks new opportunities for greater effectiveness and serves as a powerful door opener for the leader, peers, and subordinates. It is an inner journey to the center of the mind, requiring courage to face oneself from a new perspective and an active imagination to envision better paths forward. I call it conscious involvement in self-improvement, coming from a place of feeling a deserved improved self-worth, self-respect, and self-love – all crucially important in leading people today.

What is holding you back from being a better leader? Almost always, it is internal programming or self-limiting beliefs, and there’s a price to pay for not addressing them. Vigilance over your thoughts, self-talk, and feelings/beliefs is required.

Knowing thyself, as the Stoic Epictetus taught us, is the first step toward better leadership. That requires vigilance of the mind, the courage to go on that journey toward better understanding, and when necessary, reprogramming yourself to be better, one day at a time. His Stoic peer Marcus Aurelius said “You have power over your mind. Realize this and you will find strength.” As author James Allen said 100 years ago, “Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” Learning to master relaxation and calmness of mind is a leadership strategy adopted by ancient leaders, and it is a powerful tool today. Calmness leads to clarity of mind and improvements in your effectiveness and career satisfaction.

A powerful tool for facilitating this growth, the leadership 360 evaluation is a performance review involving feedback from all directions: subordinates, peers, and superiors. This can reveal critical insights into your leadership. A leadership 360 evaluation will reveal patterns of behavior, yet it will not address the deeper, subconscious thoughts and beliefs.

Let us look at one of my client’s challenges. A few years back, a client I had coached through his battle with public speaking anxiety, which he won victoriously, presented additional issues he wanted to resolve. Then he sheepishly produced his recent leadership 360 feedback report. As is common in leadership feedback circles, his top three issues involved better emotional intelligence, conflict avoidance habits, and his feeling of not being good enough. He was suffering from imposter syndrome.

My client was the chief marketing officer of a regional company, and he wanted to tackle the internal issues cited in his feedback report. Despite his years of success in both his career and personal life, he admitted he felt unworthy. We got to the root cause, going way back to his early years. His father constantly demeaned him, told him he was no good, and would never amount to anything. Nice, huh? Generational insecurity and loathing. I teach my clients how to break this cycle and, consequently, they pass on a better set of values and beliefs.

Do you ever feel like a fraud? Like you do not deserve your success, and you've somehow tricked people into thinking you are more competent than you are? Or you simply do not have the resilience to stay the course because of negative self-talk? You are not alone. Many successful people struggle with the persistent feeling of being an intellectual fraud despite evidence to the contrary. Imposter syndrome often stems from deep-seated insecurities:

• Feeling like a fraud after being promoted to a leadership role beyond your experience and abilities.

• Fear you do not deserve your success and it has mainly been due to luck or circumstance.

• Worry you will be exposed as incompetent despite positive feedback and tangible achievements.

• Attributing success to external factors.

• Discounting praise and accolades.

• Hesitance to speak up or take action.

• Perfectionism leading to procrastination and avoidance of risk-taking.

Of course, there is much more on the subject of subconscious mind power and leadership improvements, but I'm at my word limit for today!

Bob Martel is a professional hypnotist, coach, and author of several books, including “I Am Sleeping Now.” Reach him at Positive Results Hypnosis in Leominster or via email at

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