Leadership Doubt Index: new workplace survey reveals successful leaders struggle with chronic doubt about their leadership

The first-of-its-kind Leadership Doubt Index found that 97% of leaders have questioned a critical aspect of their leadership, despite high levels of overall confidence

Workload and team performance issues were the most commonly reported triggers of Leadership Doubt, and instances of doubt led to decreased productivity, feelings of burnout, and lower revenue

DALLAS, Sept. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Robin Pou Inc., a leadership development firm, released the results of the first-ever Leadership Doubt Index, which casts light on the newly discovered concept of Leadership Doubt and reveals significant implications for leaders and their companies as they navigate increasing uncertainty.

“All successful leaders experience what we call Leadership Doubt,” said Robin Pou, author, executive coach, and founder of the Leadership Doubt Index. “This new research is important because ‘imposter syndrome’ has been the only concept to describe any form of uncertainty about one’s professional role, yet we found top leaders do not resonate with that term. Executives actually feel extremely qualified for their roles, but they question their leadership abilities in specific situations, and this devolves into full-blown doubt.”

For over a decade, Robin Rou Inc. has worked with top leaders across the country to identify their doubt and deploy specific strategies that accelerate an increase in their confidence. Today, the Leadership Doubt Index findings shine a new light on how doubt is a huge issue plaguing executives, yet it has remained under the radar until now due to leaders’ fear of looking weak or losing credibility.

Mr. Pou concluded: “This groundbreaking research is an important milestone on the path to normalize the concept of Leadership Doubt. If leaders can identify their doubt, they can develop strategies to overcome it so they can lead effectively.”

Key Takeaways from the Leadership Doubt Index:

Successful leaders question a critical aspect of their leadership and experience Leadership Doubt

97% of successful leaders have questioned an aspect of their leadership 92% do not associate with the term “imposter syndrome,” which is currently the primary term used to articulate a feeling when leaders are uncertain about their abilities A majority of leaders (56%) question an aspect of their leadership on a monthly basis The top-3 leadership skills questioned are managing conflict (57%), establishing a thriving culture (54%), and managing change (53%) Over half (54%) experience long-term, chronic leadership doubt

Workload and team performance issues were the most commonly reported triggers of Leadership Doubt

The top-3 triggers for successful leaders questioning their abilities: managing a huge workload (28%), a team’s inability to perform (24%), and industry disruption (22%)

Leaders don’t typically like to discuss their Leadership Doubt

The top-3 reasons leaders don’t discuss doubt: fear of losing credibility (29%), looking weak (29%), and believing they must have all the answers (28%)

Leadership Doubt has significant negative impacts:

Leadership Doubt has had a significant impact on a leaders’ effectiveness to innovate (61%), create a compelling vision (59%), and delegate (58%) 32% of leaders attribute negative revenue growth to their leadership doubt Top Leaders1 are significantly more likely than Established Leaders2 to report negative impact on overall performance and revenue growth. A majority of leaders who experience Leadership Doubt report it has caused them to feel more burned out (65%) and have less job satisfaction (55%) The most frequent maladaptive coping mechanisms are a tendency to be short-tempered (35%) and overly critical (33%)

Despite efforts to resolve their Leadership Doubt, leaders face an overwhelming doubt about their overall fitness for leadership

A shocking 41% have considered changing jobs as a result of Leadership Doubt, and slightly over half (51%) wonder if they can be successful as a leader going forward

“We’ve worked with some of the best brands in the world, and this research project stands out from the pack in both its rigor and its results,” said Kyle Block, Head of Research at Gradient. “When Robin and his team approached us with an idea to quantify something that has never been quantified before, we were excited to deploy our global team of market researchers and data scientists to create this research study and identify the fascinating and far-reaching implications of Leadership Doubt.”

The Leadership Doubt Index launched as a part of National Confident Leader Week, a national initiative aimed at enhancing leadership effectiveness by better understanding how leaders question their abilities in challenging situations, manage their doubt, and then ultimately cope with those experiences.

The full survey results are available here.

About the research and survey:
To create the Leadership Doubt Index, Robin Pou Inc. partnered with Gradient, a market research firm rooted in data science, and leveraged Dynata as the panel platform. The survey was fielded August 18August 28, 2023. The sample comprised 601 US business leaders from various industries ranging from Director-level roles to the C-suite, and those who manage 2+ direct reports at companies with $10M or more in revenue. Eighty percent of the respondents work at companies with $100 million or more in revenue, and respondents had an average of six direct reports. Top industries represented by respondents were: technology, manufacturing, construction, retail, and healthcare.

1. Top Leaders are defined as respondents with the following roles: Business owner, Founder,
President, or C-Suite executive; 2. Established Leaders are defined as respondents with the following roles: Vice President (VP) or Director.

About Robin Pou Inc.
Robin Pou is a former COO who is now an executive coach, author, and leadership expert who was first to unearth the concept of Leadership Doubt and the Four Doubt Types™. Robin and his team help leaders understand and overcome their doubts to reach their potential and successfully handle the most complex challenges in today’s market. Robin also shares his latest leadership insights in a popular weekly newsletter with thousands of subscribers called The Confident Leader, which has an industry-leading open rate of 67% – approximately triple the industry average.
For more information, please visit the National Confident Leader Week homepage, follow Robin Pou on LinkedIn, and sign-up for The Confident Leader newsletter.

About Gradient
Gradient is a cross-functional team of industry analysts, market researchers, data scientists, technologists, and storytellers who help organizations uncover missed opportunities, find new layers of clarity, and pioneer new directions with confidence and statistical integrity. Gradient works with all kinds of organizations including startups, Fortune 100 brands, consulting firms, philanthropies, and political campaigns.

Media Contact
Stephen Reiff

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