Putting on a Brave Face – Leadership in the time of COVID-19

2020 has felt like a never-ending struggle for everyone. As soon as one problem is dealt with, another follows soon after, often creating even more setbacks than the last. Many businesses have had to make difficult decisions, whether it is having to make employees redundant, asking workers to take a pay cut, or having to put staff on furlough. As a result, business leaders have had to rely on gut instinct and softer skills more than ever before, which has come at a cost to mental health and wellbeing.

According to  a recent study from LinkedIn, imposter syndrome – the feeling of self-doubt and insecurity - has reportedly increased among business leaders. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of execs believe that leading their businesses through the pandemic has been the most challenging experience of their careers so far. A further 52 percent of C-level executives in Europe have, at times, doubted their own leadership skills, while three quarters have admitted to putting on a brave face even when they do not feel optimistic about business performance, often choosing not to admit to other colleagues if they are struggling.

The survey also revealed that 58% have found leading their teams virtually – via email, Zoom and other means – to be a challenge, as employees are increasingly choosing to work remotely in the post-lockdown period.


What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is defined as the inability to believe your success is deserved as a result of your hard work. Instead, the inclination is to internalise that you got where you are by other means such as luck or being in the right place at the right time rather than through distinct skills, capabilities, and experiences.

The manifestation of self-doubt can have a big impact on confidence when dealing with difficult situations. Even when the choices made are proven to be the right ones, many leaders may feel that they could have taken a better course of action.

Imposter syndrome has affected everyone at some point in their lives, but instead of trying to overcome it, most people can use it to their advantage.

The LinkedIn study has shown a rise in the imposter syndrome in the workplace, what it has also revealed is that the pandemic has given many leaders a unique opportunity to reflect on their leadership style. A majority of business leaders are putting focus on building closer relationships with employees or being more open with colleagues about their problems. Others have found themselves utilising more soft skills such as empathy and compassion and have turned to online training course to help supplement this.

Navigating a clear path through 2020 has brought everyone out of their comfort zone. A leader who can effectively adapt to the continually evolving challenges are the ones who are most likely to thrive.

Leadership courses are available on the Aviva Development Zone.

About the author

Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Her role as a content designer involves developing new and engaging e-learning modules as well as assisting in the creation of articles for Insight. 

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