Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Sharon Radd, Ed.D.


Organizational Leadership, Ethics and Leadership



The imposter phenomenon refers to one’s persistent feelings of self-doubt, despite any external evidence of success, and fear of being discovered as a fraud (Clance & Imes, 1978). Research shows women experience imposter feelings more frequently than men, and experiences with imposter feelings can have a negative impact on job performance, career trajectories, and mental well-being (Hirschfeld, 1985; McGregor et al., 2008; Kumar & Jagacinski, 2005; Cusack et al., 2013; Neureiter & Traut-Mattausch, 2016). However, few studies attempt to understand the full impact of imposter feelings on leaders or how leaders manage these feelings in order to effectively lead. This study sought to understand the imposter phenomenon in female-identifying, for-profit leaders and explores the experiences of ten women leaders who have experience managing imposter feelings in their careers. After conducting interviews with each woman and analyzing them using Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory, three overarching themes emerged: Triggers of Stage Fright, Impact of Imposter Feelings on Performance, and Imposter Feelings and Impression Management. These themes, and the sub-themes within each, illustrate how imposter feelings can serve as a leadership barrier to women and must be effectively managed.