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"It's hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse."
~ Adlai E. Stevenson II
Some of the participants in our leadership classes have mentioned how they feel like they have “impostor syndrome” when they step up to lead in a new role. It’s a common experience, and the suggestion to “fake it ‘till you make it” doesn’t get at the root of the issue.
If you are feeling self-conscious and weird about being in charge, I have a suggestion: develop a VISION. It can be an ENORMOUS vision, like: “We are going to be the industry leader by the end of the decade!” But it’s more effective to start small. When leading a team meeting, for example, consider:
What do we want the outcome of this project to be?
What do we want the client to think and feel when we’re done?
What shorter-term goals are we advancing with this meeting?
What do I want the outcome of this meeting to be?
If you develop a vision for every project, every meeting, and every purposeful activity you and your team do, it’s easier to explain, to inspire, and to feel the purpose of what you do.
The key factor is how you FEEL about this vision. Yeah, I know—”feelings.”
But if you are authentically excited by your vision—you think: “That would be SO GREAT!” or “This is going to work SO WELL.” or “The client is going to be DELIGHTED by this!” And when you are focused on the vision, you become less self-conscious about the telling-other-people-what-to-do part. And you will project more confidence and positivity about the process. People prefer to follow someone who has that, “Let’s do this cool thing!” energy.
You don’t need to be all loud about it—a quiet but genuine enthusiasm is okay. And you don’t need to have all the answers—you can go into the meeting with a concept like: “Today I want us to brainstorm a solution that makes this work by the deadline on the 28th.” But find ways to let your people know what the goal is and why it will be great in everything your team does.