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Amy Johnson | Chief Product Officer PropelNov 3, 2023 2:45:50 PM4 min read

Let's Chat About That Sneaky Feeling of Doubt: Imposter Syndrome in Product leaders

Let's start with a story about Alex...

Alex's first day as Head of Product was tinged with the fresh excitement of new beginnings. Walking into her first team meeting, she was greeted by eager faces, each ready to embark on a journey led by Alex.

Yet, as she laid out their vision for a product-led transformation, a whisper of doubt crept in. "Should I really shake things up from the get-go?" Alex wondered, confidence wavering. Deciding to proceed with caution, Alex gently nudged the team towards a product-centric approach, but stopped short of the bold overhaul she had initially believed in.

Time ticked by, and the team made steady progress. However, a certain something was missing. It was during a casual team feedback session that the truth surfaced. The team craved the very transformation Alex had hesitated to implement.

Mixed emotions flooded Alex; there was an undeniable sense of validation, yet it was laced with a hint of regret. "If only I'd trusted my instincts," she thought. This moment, though, was far from a defeat. It was a pivot, a catalyst for change.

Emboldened, Alex championed the product operating model with renewed vigour, fostering an environment where a product mindset was not just encouraged but celebrated.

Overcoming the initial imposter syndrome wasn't easy, but it was a journey that bore fruit. By pushing past her comfort zone and advocating customer centric ways of working Alex not only propelled the startup to new heights but also solidified her confidence as a leader. Where once hesitation lingered, now stood a beacon of conviction and results. Alex's ideas and leadership didn't just whisper—they resonated with the unmistakable clarity of success.

Ever feel like you're just winging it in your leadership role or as a product manager? At any moment, someone's going to tap you on the shoulder and say, "We're onto you!"? If you're nodding along, you've got company. That's imposter syndrome trying to crash the party, and it's more common than you think, especially among folks steering the ship in product development and management.

So, What’s This Imposter Syndrome Thing Really Like?

Imagine you're at the helm, making decisions, leading teams, and somehow, there's this nagging voice in your head. It whispers, "Do you really know what you're doing?" or "You just got lucky this time." Imposter syndrome is like that uninvited guest who doubts your skills, downplays your achievements, and loves to remind you of that one time things didn't go as planned.

How Does It Show Up in Your Day-to-Day?

  1. Working Overtime for No Reason: You might catch yourself burning the midnight oil, trying to prove you're not just making it up as you go.

  2. Playing It Too Safe: Scared of slipping up? You might avoid taking bold steps or trying out fresh ideas, just to stay in the safe zone.

  3. Brushing Off Compliments: When someone says, "Great job!" do you think, "They're just being nice"? That's imposter syndrome talking.

  4. Biting Your Tongue: Got an idea? A hunch? But you clam up because, "What if I'm wrong?" Yep, that's another classic sign.

  5. Chasing Perfection: Setting the bar sky-high for yourself? That's imposter syndrome making you think anything less is not good enough.

Alright, So What Can You Do About It?

  1. Give It a Nod: First off, recognize that feeling like an imposter sometimes is perfectly normal. You're definitely not alone in this.

  2. Flip the Script: Instead of letting those doubts run wild, try talking back to them with some positive vibes. Replace "I'm not cut out for this" with "I'm here because I earned it."

  3. Keep a Brag Book: Stash away all the nice things people say, the wins, the milestones. On a rainy day, flip through it to remind yourself of your rockstar moments.

  4. Get Real With Expectations: Perfection is a myth. Embrace the mess-ups; they're just stepping stones to getting better.

  5. Spill the Beans: Talk it out with your peers or find a mentor. Chances are, they've been in your shoes and have some wisdom to share.

  6. Toast to the Tiny Triumphs: Got through a tough meeting? Nailed a presentation? Celebrate those! It's the little victories that build up your confidence.

Wrapping It Up:

Dealing with imposter syndrome is like learning a funky dance. It might feel awkward at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be grooving along just fine. Remember, your journey as a leader or product manager is uniquely yours, and it's lined with way more wins and smart moves than those pesky doubts would have you believe. Keep your chin up, and don't let that imposter syndrome tune out your own success soundtrack! 🎶


Amy Johnson | Chief Product Officer Propel

A product leader, passionate about empowering teams and fostering inclusion. Multi industry experience, now leading the product team at Propel, where we partner with you to accelerate your product development and achieve product market fit faster.