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In Over My Head. (#44)

The Confident Leader

One of my first entrepreneurial ventures was a swim lesson business. Many students started out terrified as they found themselves in deep water.  The look on their face was similar to leaders I observe who feel professionally in the same place, in over their head.

You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.
— Edwin Louis Cole (author and pastor)

This Week’s Edition

In Over My Head, one of five types of leadership doubt.

Clarify Your Thinking

Carrie could do almost anything she put her mind to.  She advanced quickly based on her stellar work ethic and performance.


Then it happened. She was promoted to a C-Level position. She was asked to tackle a problem that seemed manageable but was more challenging than anything she had ever encountered. No amount of muscling her way through it seemed to work. Her doubt overwhelmed her.


Prior to coaching, Carrie did not realize that she had suffered from low self-regard, the emotional intelligence definition of low confidence.  She doubted herself and apparently had for a long time.


Her doubt was not visible to others. In fact, everyone Carrie worked with thought she was confident. She had every right to be based on her track record, but Carrie never thought of herself as the smartest person in the room, merely the one who worked hard and got the job done.


Now she is cowering in doubt about her inability to produce results in this one area, even though every other aspect of her new role is going well. She truly believes that any day, the higher ups will come in and ask her to resign. 


Old Thinking: This is not working and everyone around me knows it. Perhaps I have hit my leadership ceiling. It’s just a matter of time before they quietly ask me to resign.


New Thinking: I’m going to stop comparing myself to who I think… they think… they hired for this role. I am going to stay true to my strengths, work hard and let the chips fall where they may.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

This change in thinking allows Carrie to regain her brain. Moving from a flight or fight instinct, she can now see her situation more clearly. She has skills that have gotten her this far even if she needs to be reminded of what they are.


The first step was to stop the comparison game – comparing herself to what she thinks the CEO wants in this role. Because she has not asked the CEO his expectations, she suffered under an unspoken expectation of perfection.


ACTION: Go ask your leader what he expects from the role. And, write your own job description and get affirmation that that is the expectation.


Next, recognize that what you bring to the table is unique. That thing you do so well… it’s not so common.  It’s valuable.


ACTION: Take an assessment or two to generate a vocabulary for your identity as a leader.


Then, you can focus on keeping your strengths strong. Improve them. Simultaneously, you can outsource the things you do not do well.


ACTION: Outsource your weaknesses.  Find someone on the team who loves doing what you may not do well and/or is not the highest and best use of your time.


The goal for these action steps is to recognize that you bring something to the table.  You are not in over your head. You’re playing catch up to what everyone else already knows, you are in the role for a very specific reason.  It is your strengths and leadership identity that are needed to lead.


Boost Your Performance

At lunch with a table of CEO’s a few years back, I previewed this doubt type.  All of them described their own personal professional association with this type of doubt. I was shocked at the relative consistent experience offered by each of them. Find out what they confessed to me at that lunch in this week’s video.

What’s Your Opinion?

Have you felt in over your head professionally?  How did you deal with that type of doubt? Let me know at


Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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