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Navigating Feelings of Confidence and Self-Doubt After a Promotion

Moving into a higher-level leadership role is an exciting opportunity, but it can also spur complicated emotions. Promotions are usually based on past performance, so it's natural to feel confident that your skills will carry into the new role. However, most promotions also require developing new capabilities on the job. This contrast can make your confidence waver at times or even tip into self-doubt. How can you find the right balance?

Today we will explore strategies on navigating feelings of confidence and self-doubt after a promotion.

The Optimal Level of Confidence After a Promotion

Leadership transitions require just the right amount of confidence - not too much and not too little. Overconfidence early on can make you resistant to feedback and blind to developing new skills. However, underconfidence promotes indecisiveness and inhibits you from fully stepping into your new role. The optimal approach lies between these extremes. You must balance confidence in your abilities with humility to continue growing. Here are some best practices:

  • Remind yourself that you were promoted for good reason. Reflect on the strengths that got you here and how they apply in your new role. This boosts confidence.

  • Don't get overly attached to past accomplishments. Remain open and eager to gain new skills. This balances confidence with humility.

  • When you make mistakes, see them as opportunities to improve rather than just failures. This prevents dips in confidence.

  • Ask trusted advisors for honest feedback on your performance. Use their input to calibrate your self-perception. This provides reality checks on confidence.

Adjusting Your Mindset About Confidence

Making this mental shift starts with changing your mindset about confidence. View it as something you intentionally adjust, not as fixed or dependent on outside validation. Give yourself permission to move up and down on the spectrum of confidence as you tackle new challenges. Here are some mindset tips:

  • Don't beat yourself up for some self-doubt - it's inevitable early on. Focus on building confidence through preparation and practice.

  • Remember that no one expects you to know everything on day one. Have a learning mindset rather than needing to prove yourself.

  • Focus more on confidence in your ability to learn rather than confidence that you already have all the answers. The latter is unrealistic.

  • Imagine yourself succeeding in difficult leadership situations. This visualization can boost confidence.

Managing Imposter Syndrome

One of the biggest confidence killers for new leaders is imposter syndrome - feeling like a fraud who doesn't deserve the promotion. This is incredibly common. Try these strategies to manage imposter syndrome:

  • Identify triggering situations for imposter syndrome and prepare extra hard for them. Over-preparation breeds confidence.

  • Keep a file of positive feedback and accomplishments. Re-read it when you feel like a fraud.

  • Reframe feelings of fraudulence as humility. They show you want to do a good job.

  • Share feelings of self-doubt with a mentor. Their reassurance can restore confidence.

Seeking Feedback from Others

Getting objective feedback from others helps calibrate your confidence. It highlights both strengths and blind spots. Here's how to do it effectively:

  • Ask for feedback often early on - weekly if possible. This helps confidence keep pace with your actual performance.

  • Seek input from those who see different aspects of your new role - direct reports, peers, superiors.

  • Pose specific questions about your leadership capabilities. Vague questions elicit useless responses.

  • Clarify next steps based on feedback. This shows you're taking it seriously.

  • Thank people for their candor. This encourages ongoing honesty.

Benchmarking Your Progress

Finally, benchmark your skills and confidence against the learning curves of other new leaders. Remember that some self-doubt, knowledge gaps, and mistakes are normal at first. Tie confidence to your progress mastering the role, not immediate perfection. Useful benchmarks include:

  • Feedback from veterans on how long it took them to gain their footing

  • Written goals and training plans that outline skill development timelines

  • Metrics that demonstrate your leadership impact over time


A promotion brings deserved confidence along with natural self-doubt. Finding the right balance requires adjusting your mindset, managing imposter syndrome, seeking frequent feedback, and benchmarking progress. With this approach, newly promoted leaders can land on an optimal confidence level, empowering their transition. Though some uncertainty is inevitable at first, you will gain your footing faster by utilizing the strategies in this article.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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