HCMx Radio 59: Understanding the Imposter Syndrome Among Leaders

Guests:  Dr. Larry Cash, Founder and Creator, SuccessFinder

Susan Van Klink, General Manager and Senior Vice President, SuccessFinder

Host: Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group

In this episode, Dr. Larry Cash and Susan Van Klink of SuccessFinder shared results of their recent research on the analysis of the CEO, called, “Mission Imposter.” The company studied and analyzed 200 male and female CEOs to measure significant differences in the behaviors they use to run leading businesses across North America. Our discussion led to some revealing outcomes related to why female corporate leadership has not significantly increased over the past decade. The research revealed that even women who make it to the top and are successful often exhibit inferiority behaviors, lacking in self-confidence and insecurity.


The study looked at these traits in leaders:

  • Intellect
  • Stamina
  • Innovation
  • Decision-making

Results showed that women surpassed men by 10% in intelligence, but underperformed men by 10-15% self-confidence – self-smarts.  Dr. Cash refers to what is known as “the imposter syndrome” since the 1970s—where women don’t feel they are truly worthy of, or ready for, a role.

Cash and Van Klink discussed how the research can be useful in understanding reasons that impair women’s abilities to move ahead faster in the business world.  Knowing what these behaviors are and how they can be altered can be instrumental in shaping the future of women leaders.

Van Klink will be part of a panel at Brandon Hall Group’s Women in Leadership Summit, where she will highlight the research we discussed in the podcast.

Held June 15-16 in South Florida, the summit offers female corporate leaders a community experience designed to enhance skills and share ideas. The goal is to share best practices for creating inclusive environments to improve personal and organizational performance. Our research has validated the need to offer targeted development opportunities for women to grow and achieve their potential personally and professionally, and to address the unique internal and external obstacles they face. Click here for presenters and agenda.

To learn more about SuccessFinder’s “Mission Imposter” research or solutions for building up the potential of women executives, go to www.successfinder.com

To listen to our interview, you can download the podcast anytime at the HCMx Radio site.


Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Officer, Brandon Hall Group @RachelCCooke


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