What is Impostor Syndrome (IS) and how can it affect Interim Managers?

What is Impostor Syndrome

Zoe Spalding, Resourcer at Odgers Interim, explains why Impostor Syndrome is not a myth, how it might affect interim managers, and what interims can do to combat it

Beginning a new interim assignment can be daunting – especially when first starting out. Most assignments are fast paced with accelerated timescales, and interim managers are being brought in as experts, putting an immense amount of pressure on the interim.
Therefore, it is most important that you acknowledge your skills and expertise, and to remember that your prior experience has prepared you for these challenges. Always look at the positives that new assignments can create, and make sure to take care of your mental and physical health and wellbeing. If you can do this successfully, you will be in a good mental space to combat the often-feared Impostor Syndrome (IS).

What is Impostor Syndrome (IS)?

  • Impostor syndrome causes you to believe that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.
  • It can affect anyone – regardless of your employment, occupational or skill levels or social status.
  • IS can create the motivation to achieve, but it can also create anxiety that you will fail or that you are not good enough. Sufferers may overprepare to the excess, creating exhaustion, anxiety, and stress. This can create a negative cycle of behaviour – with success being. attributed only to the excessive preparation – reinforcing the need to continue this action.


  • Self-doubt
  • Attributing success to external forces (e.g., right time and place, team contributions)
  • Inability to realistically assess your own skill/competence levels
  • Sabotaging your own success – e.g., setting unachievable goals
  • Fear of not living up to expectations
  • Berating your performance

Different variations of Impostor Syndrome

  • The Superhero = pushing yourself as hard as possible due to feelings of inadequacy
  • The Expert = continual learning – never feeling like this is enough, nor acknowledging your own expertise
  • The Perfectionist = never satisfied and always thinking work could be improved. Fixates on flaws, errors and weaknesses, discounting strengths and positives
  • The Natural Genius = setting unachievable goals – resulting in feelings of disappointment when failing to meet these
  • The Soloist = individualistic, preferring to work alone – gaining feelings of self-worth via productivity levels. Often considers asking for help a weakness

How to combat Impostor Syndrome

It can be difficult to overcome some of the deeply intrenched thoughts associated with IS, but there are ways to combat feeling like an imposter in your interim role. If you feel like you are at risk of developing or feeling IS, these tips might help:

  • Share feelings with others – this may help identify and challenge irrational beliefs
  • Question whether your thoughts are rational – this will help with acknowledging dysfunctional or negative thoughts
  • Recognise your skills – look at accomplishments and compare this to your self-assessment
  • Focus on others – integrate people into conversations/groups, the more practice you gain of this, the more confidence you are likely to have in your own skills
  • Stop fighting feelings of not belonging - accepting these can help with countering core beliefs that are holding you back
  • Take small steps – rather than focusing on striving for the unachievable or perfection, aim to complete tasks well and take time to acknowledge your progress
  • Stop comparing yourself to others – we all have our own unique set of skills, strengths and accomplishments
  • Develop a healthy response to failure by acknowledging that this is not always a negative. Failure can provide learning on what to do next time – turn your IS into a more positive experience

And finally, if you are struggling with or experiencing IS and you feel you cannot combat these feelings on your own do not be afraid to seek advice and guidance for this. Talk to a friend, colleague, family member, counsellor/therapist, or your HR department. There is always help available!

If you would like to find out more about Impostor Syndrome or how to overcome this, please do not hesitate to contact Zoe Spalding


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