Stepping up to Leadership

21 Mar Stepping up to Leadership


I’ve had such an interesting response to my article about interviews last week.  Several people have approached me to collaborate on this project, from people seeking their first job interview, to those moving into senior leadership.  I have clearly struck a chord which resonates loud and clear across all professions and levels of expertise.

What really strikes me is that the law student and the senior partner in a law firm, the new employee and the seasoned expert, can have the same insecure feelings about themselves and their work.  So why is that?  Why is it that, even though we may know at a conscious level what we are capable of, and though we see evidence of our capabilities and successes, we are much more likely to focus on our concerns about what we can’t do, or might fail at?

There are several aspects of this that fascinate me:

  • Firstly, this insecurity about abilities is something that a huge number of people experience.  (66% of respondents to my survey said they felt like this often, or all the time)
  • However, it is rarely talked about, and most people seem to feel that they need to hide their insecurities and cannot share them with others, especially those in leadership roles.  Perhaps this is why my request was so welcome!
  • It is generally assumed that this is just ‘how it is’ or ‘ how I am’ or ‘how everybody is’ and therefore nothing can be done to change that.


As a result, people can find themselves in senior leadership positions in organisations, successfully fulfilling their role, and still feel insecure about their abilities.  Or alternatively, they hold themselves back from taking on the leadership role they deserve, because they feel anxious about whether they’re the best person for the job.  One client this week explained to me: how he thought others might feel about him being appointed above them; that he’d made mistakes before, and therefore might not be up to the job he was being promoted to; how colleagues complimented him on his work, only for him to start searching within for evidence to the contrary.

He’s not alone in this way of thinking – but it’s so unhelpful when:

  1. We have no idea what others will think when we take on a new role (and neither do they, because we haven’t taken it on yet!)
  2. We all make mistakes and learn from them, and that’s part of doing a good job
  3. We could just focus on what we can do, and not what we can’t, and keep going!

What is needed is a new way of seeing the situation.   A shift can be made to be reframe mistakes as part of the learning and development process; we can recognise that time spent wondering what others think is entirely futile (not the useful feedback we convince ourselves it is); and more than anything, we should seek a better sense of the value that we really offer by being willing to be ourselves.



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