Savoring: Why It’s a Valuable Leadership Skill – Especially for Women
In 1978 in their seminal paper, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes reported for the first time about high-achieving women who were not only unable to internalize a personal sense of achievement but also felt like frauds. They noted that in addition to low levels of self-esteem, these women showed a higher self-esteem instability, manifested as frequent state-self-esteem fluctuations over short periods and across situations. They concluded that a principal cause of these self-esteem deficiencies was their reliance on others’ feedback and approval.
While this concept of imposter syndrome isn’t unique to women, it does seem more prevalent among them. A KPMG study found that 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers, with nearly half (47%) of executive women saying that their feelings of self-doubt resulted from never expecting to reach the level of success they have achieved. When asked which workplace characteristics were most helpful in reducing thoughts of imposter syndrome, 47% responded having a supportive manager, and 29% stated feeling valued and being compensated. Because of several external reasons, 56% of respondents were concerned that they will not meet expectations or that others will not believe they are as capable as they claim.
Concerning this gender-related conviction, the concept recently regained major public attention, thanks in part to its prominent mention in Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, where she defined imposter syndrome as a phenomenon aggravating women’s self-doubt caused by stereotypes society holds about female roles—thus further undermining their motivation for “climbing the corporate ladder” and willingness “to sit at the same table” with their male leadership colleagues.