It’s only human to have the occasional moments of doubt and ‘second guess’ major decisions in the pressurised world of modern retailing.

Part of the emotional intelligence of modern leaders is being able to recognise heightened hesitation or confusion and to seek out support and insights from executive colleagues, projects teams and reliable retail data.

However, in some cases, leadership abilities can be eroded and undermined by persistent imposter syndrome. This is when someone doesn’t just question the choices they make, but their eligibility to be responsible for making those decisions in the first place.

How imposter syndrome manifests

Having a small voice inside your head making you believe that your success is undeserved, and your efforts and skills don’t fit your job role, can be particularly strong after rapid advancement. It’s also often experienced by high achieving, younger executives.

Imposter syndrome can lead to the constant fear that your inadequacy will be exposed, and that one wrong move and your position as an executive will become untenable. 

If you assign your senior management role to luck (rather than proven ability and experience) it can therefore seriously devalue your leadership abilities. 

For example, it may lead to a fervid pursuit of perfection in yourself and others, to prove your ‘worth’. Delegating becomes a battleground, and you end up micro-managing your team. 

You could also be the first to arrive each day and the last to leave, taking work home with you literally and mentally.

Retail executives waiting to be ‘found out’ can also shy away from pressure situations and moments when you need to lead from the front, to avoid being exposed as a fraud.

How to combat feeling a ‘fraud’

To steer away from this, you need to develop the ability to celebrate achievements – your own and your staff’s – and deal with mistakes and oversights with good grace. Including ‘owning’ your own occasional missteps.

Select a few areas of professional development that cause you particular concern – such as presentation skills or data analysis – and find training programmes and online courses that build your skills and confidence.

Make sure you achieve a healthy work-life balance too, taking time to relax and pursue hobbies and interests that build your self-esteem.

Perhaps the most important way to address imposter syndrome is to accept that it’s okay to ask for help! Not just from your superiors, but also from your team, whose collaborative abilities could bolster your perceived lack of ability.

Also, accept that you are far from alone in feeling a ‘fraud’ sometimes, and being concerned that you can handle the pressures of leadership. 

Keep in mind that someone must have felt that you showed sufficient skills, experience and personal attributes to warrant this role! So, celebrate your achievement without spending too much time questioning it.