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Two Things Can Be True at The Same Time

I was working with a client this week who is a leader in her company. My goal was to focus on simply having her recognize her own leadership abilities. Everyone around her seems to see it, feel comforted by it, and the company is thriving. Over the past years, her decisions as a leader has turned her company into a multimillion-dollar company. Only she seems to not see her own abilities. As we were sitting there together, trying to unpack where this block was coming from, she said to me “but if I accept that I know what I’m doing, wouldn’t that mean that I would have to change?” I responded with a resounding “no”. She seemed surprised by this response. So, I elaborated and said “You’re already doing great things. The only thing that would change would be that you have peace while doing them. You would still be you; you would just see how great you really are”. I could tell she didn’t quite buy it; not yet at least.


There’s this concept in business that leaders have to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way, in order to be effective leaders. Research shows that this is of course not the case. There are hundreds of personality traits that make effective leaders from cautious leaders who do their research before making important decisions, to charismatic leaders who can sell you an idea within minutes, to the outright boisterous and quirky leaders who appear to make a lot of money but not a lot of friends. There are so many different ways to be an effective leader in this world today.


Oftentimes, what happens with Imposter Syndrome is that we look at leaders like Musk and Bezos, realize that we are nothing like them, and so decide that we don’t have what it takes to be effective leaders. To make matters worse, we then generalize this inability to everyday life convincing ourselves that since we are funny, goofy people with our friends and family we could never become effective leaders. We forget that two things can be true at the same time: you can be an effective leader AND you can be a goofy person with your friends.


Later that night, my husband and I went out to dinner with 2 other couples whom we have been friends with for over a decade. Our table consisted of only leaders: four physicians all teaching the next generation of residents how to be doctors, a product management team leader for a major tech company, and myself (a private practice owner and professor). We laughed, made jokes, spoke about our family and work. As we got noisier throughout the meal, laughed more, and joked more, I wondered what the other dinners might think of us. I wondered if they knew what caliber leaders were sitting at this table on a Wednesday evening before the Holidays. I had a feeling that if the dinners of that evening were surveyed, nobody would guess what we did for a living correctly.


That’s the beauty though with life. Two things can be true at the same time: you can be an amazing leader in your professional life, AND someone who gets themselves into all kinds of hilarious shenanigans in your personal life. These ideas are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they show the versatility that we as humans possess. So, if you find yourself saying things like “I’m not serious enough to be a good leader” please remember that 1) you don’t have to be serious all the time to be a good leader, and 2) you might not be giving yourself enough credit for what you have already achieved.   


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