Maya Angelou, Imposters, 50% Rules & 4 Traps To Avoid

The legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou once said about herself: “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’ll find me out.”


Are you faking it until you make it?

Can you move past the imposter syndrome to the following levels of personal confidence and, thereby, the next level of leadership competencies?

You need to understand a few inalienable thoughts.

To transition successfully, leaders must become good students of their own experience and remain open to adapting their mindset and behaviour.


The 50-Percent Rule

The 50-percent Rule goes like this:

Half of what made you successful in the past is essential to success in your next role.

And half of what made you successful in the past won’t help in your next part and may get in the way of success.

The thing is, no one can tell you which half is which!


Transition Traps

Without attending to the 50-percent Rule, leaders easily fall into any of the following transition traps:

  • The big speech.
  • There’s a new sheriff in town.
  • I know what good looks like.
  • Get stuff done at any cost.

Trap No. 1: The Big Speech

The big speech is precisely that: trying to be articulate early on, tying the business and yourself into a nice bow.

The trap is that you, the leader, mentally check the box that you have been clear, but everyone else remains in wait-and-see mode or thinks, “I’ve heard that before.” 

Trap No. 2: There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Some leaders intend to be candid about their expectations, ensuring everyone knows who is now in charge. They may think they are telling people how to be successful.

If the leader isn’t clear on what distinguishes high from underperforming, they drive honest conversation underground and foster a rumour mill about who might be in the doghouse—or worse. 

Read More About the New Sheriff

Trap No. 3: I Know What Good Looks Like 

Ironically, leaders can fall into this trap precisely because they desire to share best practices. The first time a leader in transition offers benchmark comparisons of how similar issues were handled at their last company, people listen attentively. But by the fourth or fifth time, the same people discretely roll their eyes or mentally recite the benchmark story they have heard too many times.

The trap is that leaders isolate themselves from the people they want to work with.

Trap No. 4: Get Stuff Done at Any Cost 

As you up your leadership game, you may commit to driving the change that previously could not be achieved. You may start leaning on people until the shift occurs. Progress may be realized at the cost of creating a reputation for being unreasonable and dismissive.

By falling into this trap, you will be forced into investing time in rebuilding your brand, re-establishing relationships, and discovering ways not to alienate everyone around you. 


What can you do?

For all of your positive aspirations to be the leader you want to become and your people deserve, you can fall into almost every trap imaginable.