The former surgical nurse and now MD of the world’s largest healthcare company, Susan Martin sheds light on impostor syndrome through her leadership success story.
Ahead of her keynote at The Authentic Leadership Summit on March 19, Susan Martin, Managing Director of Johnson and Johnson Medical Devices in Australia and New Zealand, talks to us to shed some light on impostor syndrome or the self-limiting beliefs that we often tell ourselves.
As a leader for many years at Johnson & Johnson Medical, Susan has heard women across all stages of their careers pose questions like “what if I can’t do it?” It’s an illustration of how these self-limiting perceptions are ingrained in the minds of emerging female leaders. She knows this only too well because not long ago, this was her inner voice too.
‘’Am I smart enough? Am I good enough?” All these thoughts were in my head.”
Early on, Susan knew that she wanted to work in healthcare and travel the world. With that in mind she became a nurse.
“I was scrubbed up in an operating theater working literally life and death every day. It was a great experience. But I reflect on that and I thought – Why did I not ever become a doctor? I possibly could have done it, it just never dawned on me. Was that an option?”
From the operating theater, Susan moved to the business side of healthcare when she joined Johnson & Johnson Medical where she steadily grew from an entry level position and into management.
“I was doing reasonably well. But then what happens? I would tell myself – This can’t be true! Could I go into management? That’s not for me. Am I smart enough? Am I good enough? Do I have the skills? Do I have the experience? Would I ever be accepted? – And all these thoughts were in my head. And let me just say, they weren’t in anyone else’s. They were in mine.”
As Susan moved up in her career in Johnson & Johnson the self-doubting inner voice would persist. It took a make-or-break experience for her to realise that what she was telling herself was not playing out there.
“That (inner) voice was saying something very different and it was limiting myself from my full potential. I realised that I don’t want to be that person. So, I’ve decided to back myself.”
That idea may sound simple but for Susan it was a major turning point. Flipping the script from it’s not gonna work to the more proactive I will find a way emboldens you to put your hand up for challenges and set yourself up for success.
“When I started to back myself, I stood with confidence and other people believed it even more than I did.”
“It’s ok to not have all the answers, or be the smartest person in the room.”
Susan comes from a clinical background which demands a high level of expertise and having all the information. But moving up in the organisation and leading 900 people made her realise that she needed to be ok with not knowing everything.
“As your span of control increases, you need to be comfortable with ambiguity. Ask the questions, be curious, listen to the answers and be comfortable that you do not know at all. The good thing about leading 900 people is that chances are, someone does.”
“All this time I was waiting for someone else to give me permission to succeed. And all I really needed was my own.”
Almost 2 years into her role as Managing Director, Susan shares her leadership journey at the Authentic Leadership Summit hoping to help others change the self-doubting monologue. Her experience will teach us that whatever you may be going through in your career while taking care of others and your ambitions – you can do it if you stay true to yourself and back yourself for success.
Our key speakers have achieved new levels of success by being their true selves at work and having a shared purpose with their organisation and its people.
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