2020 and the Coronavirus crisis has been a particularly strange time, especially for those leading a business. In fact, trying to keep your business afloat during a global pandemic, leading and comforting employees combined with having to deal with the personal stresses of lockdown has made running a business an unenviable task.
Recent research shows that 52% of c-level executives have doubted their ability to lead during the coronavirus crisis and imposter syndrome is on the rise. We’ve been leading through a pandemic, and that is no easy task, but these times of uncertainty have caused a lot of self-doubt for many. This is a situation none of us could have prepared for and none of us have ever experienced, so questioning your ability to lead seems like a very normal reaction. The same research found that 69% of executives agreed that leading their team through COVID-19 has been one of the most challenging experiences of their career so far.
Many businesses across the world have seen a shift to remote working, which has been a huge challenge. Many tech startups and smaller companies have been able to adapt quickly to the remote lifestyle, but for other organizations adopting a remote working strategy so quickly created panic. Plus, leading teams while they work from their homes comes with a lot of new challenges from the strength of internet connections to getting to grips with Zoom calls, difficulty collaborating and even having to trust employees like never before.
Then there’s the pressure that comes with leading a business. It’s up to leaders to remain calm and collected for the sake of employees. They look to their leadership team for guidance and stability; which isn’t always ideal when you’re dealing with pressures yourself. A good leader in times of crisis must be switched on 24/7, to help listen to any employee concerns, answer any questions they may have and be a stable force within the business. However, this year has been like nothing any leader has experienced before. In fact, 72% of leaders have struggled with not having the answers to employee questions, which is something we can all certainly relate to. It’s hard when your team expect you to have the answers but the circumstance keeps changing and the future remains unknown.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that 41% of leaders have experienced higher levels of stress and anxiety this year than in previous years.
So, what can leaders do to not only help their own mental health but combat any imposter syndrome they may be experiencing during this pandemic?
1. Take a break
If your employees are feeling stressed or experiencing burnout, the first thing you’d tell them to do is to take a break. So, follow the same advice. Take some time away from work, even if it’s just an evening to clear your head. Worrying about what’s to come when no one can predict what’s coming will never help, and it won’t make you a better leader to your employees. Instead you’ll feel stressed, worried and as if there’s no way out. Clearing the mind will help you gain a fresh perspective and will help your mental health, which business leaders often neglect.
2. Put more trust in your team
Whether you’re a startup business or an established name, if you have the right people on your team you should be able to trust them with a bit more responsibility. Traditional leadership is over, team work really will make the dream work in the new normal. The idea that one person can control everything in an organisation is a weak approach to leadership and will take its toll both on you as a leader and your employees. Instead share responsibilities, involve more people in decision making and create a more collaborative cultural culture – trust us, your employer brand will benefit too.
3. Celebrate the little wins
If this year has taught us anything, it’s to seek out the positives. No matter how little a win or an achievement for your business, you should celebrate it. For one thing, having something to celebrate will improve morale throughout your organization but it also helps you to see that things aren’t so bad. Whether you’re a startup that is growing and seeing success on the back of the pandemic, or you’re an established business that has welcomed a new client; all wins are worth celebrating. It may seem silly but even an email to update your team on these victories will lift your company culture, unite your employees and give you as a business leader something to feel positive about.
4. It’s okay to be human
Remember, you may be running a business but you’re also a person. Everyone makes mistakes or has days where things don’t look quite so great, especially during the current climate. There have been countless articles this year about how leaders should embrace empathy in their leadership style, but it’s also vital that you have some compassion for yourself. In an era where we’re told to be kind it’s easy to forget to be kind to yourself, especially when you have a responsibility to care for your team. But, leading with empathy will generate empathy in return. If you treat your employees as human beings, they’ll do the same to you and will understand the days where you may be a little stressed out or down.
5. Think long-term
Our final tip to combating imposter syndrome is to focus on long term goals. No one can predict what will happen in the future, but you can set a series of mini-goals for where you hope to be when the pandemic is over. Getting too bogged down in the everyday is no way to lead however neither is beating yourself up about meeting pre-pandemic sales targets. You need to look at the current situation and think about where you’d like to be when it ends, setting new goals but also aiming higher than getting through another month. Take a step back and think back to where you where at the start of all of this craziness; it’s likely that your situation now looks much better than it did in April. Now imagine where you can be this time next year and focus on getting there.
6. Train your senior team
In learning how to combat your own imposter syndrome, you’ll be able to recognise the signs of it amongst your employees and will in turn improve your leadership style. Therefore, leaders should look into training their management team on imposter syndrome too. It’s estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome at least once in their life, whether a leader or not. Combating the issue in your wider organisation should help to create a more positive company culture which will reflect in all aspects of the business. Making sure everyone within your business feels secure, happy and confident in their own abilities will have positive implications overall and will make you feel like a better leader.
Imposter syndrome can take over an organisation quickly, everyone can suffer with it from leaders to even entry-level employees. By analysing your company culture, reviewing your priorities and training yourself and your team to be aware of imposter syndrome your business will become a more supportive and positive place to work. You’ll have a happier, more supportive team which will enhance your employer brand and help to attract future candidates for years to come.
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