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10 Tips on Overcoming Self Doubt for Leaders

A weight with text 'self doubt' attached to someone's leg, weighing them down
Home » Leadership » 10 Tips on Overcoming Self Doubt for Leaders

Doubt is the number one thing that’s going to stop you from achieving what you want to achieve.

The antidote to doubt is action.  It’s about doing the things we need to do to push through that doubt.

Instead of worrying about what you can’t control, you need to focus on what you can do and what you can control because, on the other side of doubt, is where the magic is.

Where Does Self-Doubt Come From?

Self-doubt happens when we lack confidence in our abilities or feel incapable of doing the things we need to.  When self-doubt creeps into our thinking, it leads to uncertainty — often about things that are outside of our control.  It can be paralyzing.

A little self-doubt is healthy.  It can cause you to pause and consider the impact of your actions to avoid potential problems, but when it prevents you from moving forward or is persistent, it can impact your job, career, and home life negatively.

It can also be self-perpetuating.  Doubt about your ability to do the job can impact the way you do it, which can lead to poor results and make you more hesitant to do it again.  Once a pattern has been established, it can create more doubt than ever.

The most common causes of self-doubt include:

  • Past mistakes and experiences that make us question our abilities
  • The way we were raised, including parental expectations
  • Comparing ourselves to others and their accomplishments
  • New challenges in which we do not have experience
  • Fear of failure

As you progress in your career, you assume that you develop skills and expertise to overcome this self-doubt.  The more successful you are, the less you should doubt your abilities.  But, that’s not always the case.  Many top executives suffer from Imposter Syndrome.  Despite your training, education, experience, and accomplishment, you still may feel that you don’t deserve success.  Many top performers privately feel like a fraud at times, which can escalate any self-doubt that already exists.

If you’re feeling self-doubt, you’re not alone.  Research shows that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome and self-doubt at various times in their lives.

Overcoming Self Doubt

The good news is that you can overcome self-doubt by facing it head on and developing the right mindset for success as a leader.  Here are 10 tips on overcoming self-doubt for those in leadership positions.

1. Take Action

Even if it’s a small step, forward movement helps quiet doubt.  Break down large tasks into small, incremental actions and get to work!  Often, doubt creeps in because a task feels overwhelming.  When you break it down into smaller steps, it feels more actionable.  As you successfully complete these steps, it helps build confidence.

Let’s say you are feeling pressure to come up with a new product line for your company.  Even if you have had success doing so before, you may worry about whether you can replicate that success.  Instead of internalising these fears, create a framework for development.  Just as you might create an outline for a story or research paper, you can create a process map that outlines the steps you need to take.  It might start with putting together your internal and defining goals or brainstorming product extensions.  Rather than worry about the end result, map out the process and take the first steps.

2. Celebrate the Wins

Woman celebrates a win with hands in the air facing the rising sun

When you’ve taken a step forward, take it as a win.  Take a breath and celebrate your success before immediately moving to the next step.  Momentum works both ways — positively or negatively.  When you accomplish a task, recognise it as an accomplishment and build positive momentum.

When you’ve taken a step forward, take it as a win.  Take a breath and celebrate your success before immediately moving to the next step.  Momentum works both ways — positively or negatively.  When you accomplish a task, recognise it as an accomplishment and build positive momentum.

3. Remember Past Successes

If you’ve ascended to a leadership position, you’ve certainly had past success.  It helps to reflect on your past accomplishments.  When you are worried about how things might go wrong, it’s important to remember how things go right.

4. Remember that You Can Always Change Course

No matter how long you obsess over planning, you likely cannot predict every possible outcome.  The more you do, the more self-doubt can creep into your thoughts.

Realise that most decisions are not permanent. If you make a mistake, admit the error, and fix it.  Mid-course corrections are not only common, but a necessary part of leadership.

5. See Failures as Opportunities

Even in failures, there are opportunities to grow and learn.  The lessons learned will help you do a better job the next time.

The list of highly successful people that failed at one point in their career is legendary. 

  • Thomas Edison said he learned 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb would not work before finally finding the solution.
  • Walt Disney was fired from a job and told he lacked imagination. The theme parks and entertainment company he built has a current market value of more than $319 billion.
  • Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he started, and then came back to the company years later to build one of the world’s most profitable organisations.
  • Henry Ford founded two auto companies that failed before launching the Ford Motor Company.

Each one of these inventors and business leaders likely had moments where they doubted their abilities after failures.  They found a way to push through self-doubt and accomplish spectacular success.

6. Stop Seeking Validation

Vector image of woman chasing floating love hearts as validation

It’s helpful and necessary to seek advice and input from colleagues and team members, but if you get in the habit of always asking others what they think about your plan before you implement it, you might be undermining yourself.  It can cause others to worry about your ability to lead.

While it’s important to get counsel, you don’t need to rely on others to validate your value.  Seek input and guidance when necessary, but don’t rely on others to validate your worth.

7. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

No matter how well you are doing in your career, there’s likely someone else that has done more or accomplished things you wish you had.  There’s always someone with a better job, more money, a nicer car, or a bigger house. 


Be grateful for what you have and stop judging your performance by what other people are doing.  Self-doubt is often a product of feeling “less than” by comparison.  You might think If I’m so good at my job, why have I not achieved the success that she has? You might be surprised to know that she’s probably thinking that same thing about someone else.

US President Theodore Roosevelt once said “comparison is the thief of joy.”  He’s right.  Not only can it keep you from enjoying your successes, but it can make you doubt your abilities.

8. Sharpen Your Skills

If you are experiencing self-doubt about your leadership abilities, seek out colleagues for advice.  Take part in a leadership training course and learn new skills.  Not only will it reinforce ideas you already know, but leadership training can provide new techniques and tactics that help quiet the inner voice and give you more confidence in your abilities.

9. Surround Yourself with Supportive People

Whether it’s colleagues, friends, or family, there are certain people in your life that will always be there to support you, believe in you, and be on your side.  At times of self-doubt, it helps to surround yourself with these people to remind you how resilient and talented you are — even when you are not feeling that way about your own abilities.

10. Practice Self Compassion

Vector image of woman looking at her self in the mirror saying 'It's okay'

When others make mistakes, do you immediately doubt their abilities or do you put it in perspective against other contributions they’ve made?  Why would you not extend that same courtesy to yourself?

Remember, you are likely your harshest critic.  It helps to remember that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s a part of the human experience.  Doubt is often fear of making mistakes, but that’s often the way we learn life’s biggest lessons.

Self-compassion means being kind to yourself in the same way you would with a close friend, colleague, or loved one.

Stick with Your Purpose and Move Forward

You are never going to eliminate doubt completely and some self-reflection is important.  However, you can’t let your doubts hold you back.  You may make some mistakes, but the important thing is to stick with your purpose and continue to move forward.

If you think you would benefit from leadership training or executive coaching, we’re here to help. We create customised coaching and training programs that are specifically designed to meet your needs. 

Contact Elevate Corporate Training today to talk about the possibilities.


Interested? Get in touch with one of our trainers today to see how we can help you.