So you landed the CEO position you’ve been working hard for… congrats! But let me guess, you have this sneaky feeling that someone made a mistake.
I mean, how could YOU be responsible for leading a company?! Surely you don’t have enough experience for this!
First off, take a deep breath. We’ve ALL been there! Many leaders (including myself) have had a tough transition to this new role because they feel unprepared or undeserving of the opportunity.
These feelings aren’t uncommon, but you need to keep them in check, because they won’t aid you in becoming a bold, honest, and authentic leader. And you’ve come way too far to let a little uncertainty hold you back, sister!
Here are some time-tested strategies to reframe your newfound role and—let’s be frank—inexperience, in ways that will help you lead powerfully:
1. No one is fully prepared to be a CEO when they become a CEO.
Some skills can be taught in a classroom, but leadership isn’t one of them. While academic preparation can do a lot to prepare you for key requirements of your job, no course will give you practice leading an organization through thick and thin. The silver lining here is that you have the same handicap that every other leader has had throughout history, and throughout your own life.
Think about your role models and mentors and what kinds of obstacles they faced in their journey to understanding leadership.
They didn’t pick which challenges they would or would not face. Rather, the challenges picked them, and their responses informed their own understanding of leadership. Like it or not, you won’t be totally prepared for every challenge that comes your way, but you have the capacity to lead intelligently simply because you are paying attention, thinking hard, and being honest with yourself and your team about your reasoning.
2) Remember why you wanted to undertake this job in the first place.
Very few people care about this mission or company as much as you do, so you DO have something to offer even if you have less experience. You might have been competing for an opportunity against someone with a higher level of qualifications or longer period of service, but that does not make you a less worthy candidate.
It suggests that you have something other candidates don’t: passion.
This quality is impossible to manufacture, and very difficult to fake. Your authentic passion will go a long ways to build the confidence of others in your leadership, and it should build your own confidence as well.
3) Perfection is impossible. Good is good enough. Stop seeking perfection.
The definition of perfection is subjective for each individual. (Just in case you were wondering, your definition doesn’t really matter that much.) Achieving any one version of perfection is also impossible. If you compare your outcomes to a perfect ideal, you will miss the purpose of your leadership. Incremental improvement through trial and error is essential to effective leadership.
When most of your decisions are moving your organization in the right direction, you are an effective leader, and this standard is actually pretty forgiving.
Some of your decisions will be better than others, but that doesn’t make you an imposter. What it does is actually make you a leader, because real leaders must take risks in order to effect necessary changes. And risk-taking must involve positive and negative consequences. Stay honest, seek feedback, and don’t be afraid to make a course correction or reverse your decisions when the facts suggest you missed the mark. Your team and your outside stakeholders will recognize your maturity and trust you to be honest about future decisions and outcomes rather than undermining you.
Being open about your trials and errors encourages a culture of open communication. If a decision can be revisited by you and your direct reports, many more people will be honest about their experience with the outcomes. Setting out for perfection (as defined by an individual or a committee) doesn’t foster dialogue; it shuts down dialogue, as many team members will see that the most important decisions are already final.
Being a leader has never been all that easy, but don’t make it even harder than it has to be! Take in positive feedback. Don’t deflect it all to the team. Really receive it. Allowing yourself to accept these small bits of praise will help you grow and evolve in the long run.
Now, to work towards overcoming imposter syndrome, keep a journal or document and write down 3 successes that you have each day. Yes, it’s another task on your never-ending to-do list, but each week as you review your successes, you’ll realize that you truly ARE making a difference and you DO have what it takes to be a successful CEO!