with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

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In this episode, I answer a question from a subscriber… How do I overcome imposter syndrome?

My very first client was the CEO of a major investment consortium that was sinking $70B into China. We were introduced through an old footy mate of mine and he was kind enough to meet me in Hong Kong to give me some guidance on how to become an executive coach.

I was 28 and had just come out of the Shaolin Academy and had two black eyes from a bout on the final day of my time there. I must have looked like a nutcase. But he was very kind and open.

About half way through our coffee he looked at me I think out of pure interest and said, “Ok, coach me.”

I didn’t really have time to think about it so I was like, “OK. What’s the problem?”

He said, “Not here, let’s work in my office”.

Before I knew it we were in his boardroom and he said, “I don’t feel like a CEO should feel.” And bam. There it is. Imposter Syndrome. With this big chief. I couldn’t believe it.

I said, ok. “What’s the outcome…how do you want to feel?”

“I want to feel like I’m in control. In flow, focused, on top of everything all the time. I want to feel like oak. Solid. Strong. And have the presence that goes with it.”

I said, “Show me what that looks like. Stand tall and demonstrate oak and strong and being present.”
Which he did. And immediately his whole state changed, his breathing smoothed out and his voice slowed down. The steel grew in his eyes.

And I could see the chief emerging.

Of course, we had to do a lot more to make this state of mind his everyday experience but at least we now knew what we were aiming for.

Over the next three minisodes I’ll share some powerful ways to beat imposter syndrome so you feel more comfortable in your own skin and clear of mind.

Imposter Syndrome strikes when you’re trying on something that doesn’t fit yet. It doesn’t fit for a few reasons:

  • What you’re trying to be isn’t you. You’re trying to be like a CEO or another leader that you respected and want to emulate. But you might have taken on too much of their style and not made it your own. It’ll never feel right. You’ll always feel like you’re being someone else.
  • You don’t have the right processes in place for recentering the soul and mind or for creating clarity and focus

In this post we'll cover how to develop a congruent vision of you in the role and dealing with your unconscious assumptions and beliefs that might be holding you back.


I remember the first time I entered a board room for a big meeting with an executive team back when I was a project manager. I was pretty nervous and had put all these people on a pedestal. Over the next few months of reporting to them I realised it was often a facade. Every single person in that room was just trying their best and were far from perfect. They put on a brave face to instil confidence in their people but often they weren't that sure of the right direction and were in turmoil on the inside.

The single biggest assumption that people make is that the day their role changes is the day their whole mindset and outlook will change. The two aren’t related. To feel like a boss, you have to earn and cultivate that feeling.

And it starts with defining what kind of chief you want to be.

Many of us create an idea in our head about what it will will feel like when we finally have the next big role. This idea is a mix of traits we have seen in other leaders and mentors over our lifetime. We unconsciously upload all sorts of approaches, phrases, mannerisms from other people…some good and some not so good.

When we get into the role the vision doesn't match the experience.

To build personal congruency the first step is to define in detail what it will mean for to be your greatest self in your role.

Start by defining the vision of who you want to be and how you want to operate and include:

  1. How you’ll feel on a day-to-day basis and your style that aligns to WHO you are
  2. Outline your WHY and purpose for what you do
  3. Your general performance and the key parts of the day that you’ll focus on
  4. The outcomes you’ll be getting

This should be a few paragraphs long and you should read it and think…that's really me. I'd love to be like that everyday.


It is so easy to make the cardinal sin of forgetting all the frailties of other people in big jobs. We bring all sorts of beliefs about what it will take to be in that role.

Here is a simple three step process for you to take that'll reveal some of your hidden beliefs and assumptions.

On a page create three columns and at the top of each column put these three questions:

  • What am I ‘pretending to believe to be true’ about me and my vision?
  • What is not stopping me from being this person?
  • What am I assuming to be true about other chiefs?

Make this a full list and you'll start to notice how your mind will release many of the limitations it has been carrying.


The final step is to define if there are any actions that you need to take to bridge the gap.

About 4 weeks after this initial session with my first client. I hadn’t heard a whisper. Then I got an email asking me to lunch in central Hong Kong. I was sitting at the table of this expensive steak restaurant hoping to hell he’d foot the bill.

He walked in and when we saw me he stopped dead in his tracks. And for about 15 seconds stood there, thinking.

He sat down and we made some idle chat. And then he said, “You know Greg, I was coming here to say that nothing happened after our session. But then I realised something. The last two weeks I’ve been knocking it out the park. I even got an email from one of our owners saying that this was the best he’d ever seen me. It wasn’t until I saw you that I realised that the session we did was the root cause of that.

“How much for 10 more sessions?”

Boom. And he wanted to take action. So…over to you.

What you should start to get a sense of is that you’re likely already a lot closer than you think to what it feels like to be a real chief.

Being a chief is being comfortable with a certain amount of uncertainty. Business is not black and white. It is 500 shades of the rainbow.

Chief…if you want to go along way you have to learn to reflect. Every CEO I’ve met is looking for leader with character that are self aware. To develop those traits you must look inside your own psychology.

To round out the series on beating imposter syndrome, in episode 67, I cover processes for recentering the soul and mind, and in episode 69, we’ll talk about creating clarity and focus.

Stay epic