The impostor phenomenon (IP) is a psychological cycle experienced by individuals who, despite successes, are plagued by self-doubt and a concern of being identified as fraudulent. IP research is typically focused on the psychological well-being of those who experience IP, examining antecedents and outcomes of IP. Research on organizational impact is limited with few studies examining IP’s influence on leadership practices. The purpose of this paper is to discuss IP and explore the value of mitigating IP’s negative effects with a view to developing a conceptual model that illustrates IP in context with leaders.
Using a scoping literature review methodology, this paper draws on identity theory to explore and discuss the relevance of IP to organizations and leadership practice.
Following a review of relevant literature, the authors propose a conceptual model that illustrates IP’s impact on organizational leaders’ capacity to practice leadership due to conflicting identity standards and diminished self-efficacy. Implications for organizational leadership development as well as leadership practice, theory, and research are discussed.
This paper is a theoretical analysis, not an empirical study, however, it presents a conceptual model that provides perspective on IP and its relevance to leadership as well as the organizational value of and suggestions for mitigating IP.
A greater understanding of IP and IP’s potential consequences on leadership in the workplace may contribute to organizational interventions that mitigate IP's impact on leaders and the organizations they serve.
Downing, M.S., Arthur-Mensah, N. and Zimmerman, J. (2020), "Impostor phenomenon: considerations for leadership practice", International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, Vol. 23 No. 2, pp. 173-187. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOTB-05-2019-0065
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