Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Limiting Belief of Imposter Syndrome: An Unseen Fuel of Leader Burnout

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Leadership burnout is typically attributed to external factors like demanding workload, stressful workplace culture, or an imbalance between work and personal life. These are unquestionably significant factors, but often an overlooked source of burnout lurks within – limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs are subconscious convictions that we hold about ourselves, which restrict our potential. These self-defeating thoughts like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m bound to fail” serve as a stealthy self-saboteur. These ingrained beliefs, often born from past experiences or societal conditioning, can substantially stifle our growth trajectory. One such limiting belief that’s increasingly attracting attention in the corporate arena is imposter syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is not a psychological disorder. It was initially coined as Imposter Phenomenon by Drs Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes to differentiate it from a diagnostic condition. The media popularized the term imposter syndrome. It is characterized by a constant feeling of being a fraud, despite concrete evidence of competence.

A KPMG study showed that 75% of women executives admitted experiencing imposter syndrome at the workplace.

With roots embedded in perfectionism, imposter syndrome thrives on the false belief that an individual’s achievements result from luck or external factors, not their genuine abilities.

The Hidden Connection: Imposter Syndrome and Leader Burnout

A global survey of 10,000 knowledge workers by Asana revealed that 42% believed they had grappled with both imposter syndrome and burnout, suggesting a link. Imposter syndrome exhibits similar traits to the third dimension of burnout as classified by the World Health Organization: reduced professional efficacy. Leaders battling imposter syndrome often overwork due to internal insecurities, perfectionism, and fear of failure. Leaders neglect personal care, struggle with work-life balance, and avoid task delegation for fear of exposure. This intense workload and self-doubt foster chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, and burnout.

The Power of Reframing 

Limiting beliefs can also serve as markers for personal growth and development when viewed in a different light. Leaders can embark on a transformative journey towards resilience by acknowledging and reconfiguring these beliefs.
One effective strategy to tackle imposter syndrome is reframing. Reframing involves a shift in perspective, changing the meaning of a situation or belief and, consequently, our emotional reaction to it. It’s akin to putting a new frame around an old picture; the content remains unchanged, but the perspective shifts.
Three steps to reframe imposter syndrome: 

  1. Identify Triggers: Begin by recognizing situations that provoke self-doubt. It could be a specific task, a challenging situation, or an interaction with certain individuals. With awareness, leaders can address these triggers and apply reframing techniques effectively.
  2. Challenge Negative Beliefs: When recognizing the triggers, leaders can question the negative beliefs about imposter syndrome. Ask empowering questions like, “What evidence supports this belief?” or “How have I overcome challenges before?”
  3.  Create New Meaning: Reframing imposter syndrome means consciously selecting new interpretations for past experiences. Instead of viewing setbacks as proof of inadequacy, leaders can see them as valuable opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Reframing is a gradual process that requires persistence and practice. But its impact can be profoundly transformative, allowing leaders to redefine their narratives, reprogram their mindset, and reenergize their roles. 

The prevention of leadership burnout calls for a comprehensive approach. It’s not solely about mitigating external factors but exploring the internal landscape too. By acknowledging and addressing limiting beliefs, such as imposter syndrome, leaders can ignite a cycle of positivity, resilience, and well-being, creating a win-win-win situation for themselves, their teams, and the entire organization.


Naomi N. Ali is the CEO of NNALI Consulting, Conscious Leadership Coach and Consultant, Author, Speaker, and Nationally Syndicated Columnist on The Price of Business Digital Network. NNALI’s mission is to champion conscious leadership where mindset and well-being thrive for the greater good. Visit  to learn more.

For more great business content see here.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email