The flip-side of impostor syndrome is often bluffing and pretending. Try to resist the impulse.
So much of contemporary leadership and management is actually just… acting. Organizations hire people from central casting who look the part; they look and sound like leaders — even if they don’t actually know better than others what the hell they’re doing.
Or we ourselves wake up and suddenly find ourselves in a position of leadership or management one day (gulp!), without anyone ever having told us how to do it. And so we just kind of… make it up. And hope nobody notices.
The natural result of that is often an intense impulse to bluff — to feign over-confidence, or to say things with certainty that we don’t actually know to be true, or pretend we have the ability to solve every problem (when in fact we have no freaking clue).
The smart folks over at Raw Signal shared something in their excellent newsletter on this recently that feels so so timely, given the profound uncertainty we all find ourselves in right now:
“As a boss you bluff when you think you ought to know. You bluff because your people are asking you for an answer. And if you don’t have the answer, what does that say about your ability to lead? You felt like an imposter when they handed you the new business card in the first place. And isn’t there that whole thing about everyone just making it up as they go along anyway?
We say don’t bluff because when you bluff people get hurt.
The biggest fuck ups are the ones where a leader’s bluff gets called. So don’t bluff. That means saying what you know. And being honest about the parts you don’t. You may not know if people’s jobs are safe. Even when there’s a lot of pressure to tell them they’ll be fine.”
Raw Signal is great and you should sign up to their newsletter, if you haven’t already.