Sent: March 5, 6:00 a.m.
From: Cindy, CEO
To: Karen, Chief Strategy Officer; Steve, Chief Operations Officer
Subject: Leveling the Playing Field
Steve and Karen,
Good morning, you two. Hey, so I have been thinking about next week’s strategic planning session. I know you both have strong opinions about the agenda and what you want to accomplish in the session. I’d like to hear them. You two are the only ones that I’d ever confess this to, but I’ve never led a strategic planning session. In fact, I’ve never even really been to one at this level. Kinda leaves you wondering how I got to be CEO without having that experience under my belt, but I did. Call it luck, I guess! So yeah, maybe you guys could give me some guidance here.
I want to show up as a leader, though, so maybe we can meet privately, and you guys can give me your ideas. Then, during the breaks in the meeting, we can chat out of earshot of the rest of the team, and you can let me know if I’m doing OK. You guys are so great—it’s so great to have so much support. This is a big job, being the CEO, and I couldn’t do it without you, for sure. You both have so much more experience than I do with developing strategic plans, but I’m more of a people person. We make a great team! It’s kind of like we all just report to each other, isn’t it? This is going to be a great planning session! Looking forward to hearing the ideas you have for me.
Sent: March 5, 6:05 a.m.
Subject: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
Steve, WTF is this? Is she really this stupid and clueless? I mean, I know she’s new to the CEO role here at JobSpots, but how on earth did she get this gig and what planet did she come from? I have been under the impression that she was coming in with some big vision. Guess not, eh?
Sent: March 5, 6:15 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
Karen, WTF x2. I have no idea, and there is no way in hell I’m going to be her handler and the ghost writer of her “brilliant strategic ideas.” Is she kidding us with this? Who does she think we are? This is not how I roll. Plus, I have an entire operational infrastructure proposal to present to the board.
Sent: March 5, 6:21 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
Yeah, not to mention the board asked me for a product roadmap. That IS my job after all. Since when do you and I have to be shadow CEO and do our day jobs? If she thinks we’d be a better CEO than she is, then why don’t we just suggest THAT to the board!!!???
Sent: March 5, 6:24 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
Hey, so this reminds me, have you talked to Jim over at CareerHut lately? I guess he’s moving on to start his own business, buying a winery or something. It’s going to leave an executive vacancy at our biggest competitor. You could totally do that job. I could do that job.
Sent: March 5, 6:28 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
Steve, you’re a genius. It’s a much bigger company than JobSpots, you know. If we BOTH went there, we could blow her out of the water. And without us here, she’d be the Empress with No Clothes. The whole thing would go down in flames in a week.
Sent: March 5, 6:29 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
That’d level the playing field, all right.
Sent: March 5, 6:30 a.m.
Subject: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Leveling the Playing Field
We’d better use our personal emails for this conversation.
And in a matter of thirty minutes, early on a Tuesday morning, a plan was hatched.
LET’S GET REAL
Let’s talk about imposter syndrome. Odds are you are going to have some degree of it. Most leaders who aren’t narcissists do. It’s perfectly natural to rise to a level in your career that makes you feel a little unsure, shakes your confidence, or even makes you feel like you’re not worthy of the stature and authority—or even pay grade—that you have achieved. But many leaders lean too heavily on the talents and experiences of those around them to shore up their lack of confidence, rather than doing the work necessary to build their own.
Talented senior managers will fill every void they see in the interest of their own goals and the goals of the business. If that void is you, then you can rest assured that someone will either oust you from below or fly right over you without you ever seeing it coming. They will also have spotted a weakness in your leadership, which is especially useful information for when they go to work for your competitor!
Again, to be fair, it is perfectly normal to be unsure of yourself, and it is even sometimes OK to be out of your depth in experience and skill. But get the help you need from the right resources. There are leadership coaches, CEO coaches, leadership peer groups, or even some board members who will be a good fit for mentoring you and sharpening your skills.
Like it or not, you are the captain, and your crew—no matter how capable or how experienced—is counting on you to act like one.