Articles · · 2 min read

Overcoming self-doubt as a Design Leader

The most effective design leaders I know leverage nuance to overcome self-doubt in five steps.

This post was originally published on on July 1, 2019.

Becoming an effective design deader is possible, and it takes practice to reduce uncertainty in that transform.

Design Twitter is at it again. The debate over who is or isn’t a designer is in full force. “We’re all designers.” “Only designers are designers.” “There are no designers.”

This is not a new debate, and personally, I do not understand what or who this debate serves, but I know this debate does not help me. It does not spark joy.

If you’re a design leader, is this really a debate at your organization? Are your business, product, and engineering partners having this debate? Is this debate reducing your levels of anxiety or stress? Increasing them? If you are a design leader, are you struggling daily with other things, like self-doubt?

Strong Design Twitter voices are seemingly able to navigate any issue they are confronted with. Often though, their proposed solutions lack nuance and often come from a very privileged place. I don’t believe this debate is helping with the pragmatic and applicable ways design leaders can overcome self-doubt.

As a result, this Design Twitter debate seems to compound insecurities in individuals rather than level-up the design community as a whole.

Self-doubt is a real thing. Over the years, I have met many capable and brilliant designers who were crippled by it. Even as they transitioned into design leadership roles, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome not only remained, it magnified. I, too, can relate.

Effective transformation from designer to design leader starts and ends with nuance. The most effective design leaders I know leverage nuance to overcome self-doubt in five steps:

  1. Ground oneself with objective feedback
  2. Practice new skills every day
  3. Ask for help
  4. Get help in safe spaces
  5. Rinse and repeat

Sounds easy, right? But where to start if you haven’t already?

We are all transforming into something, and transforming into a better design leader is possible. I believe helping design leaders with pragmatic and applicable ways to transform can help overcome self-doubt. I think introducing new types of training and education for design leaders is needed.

This is why I launched CDO School. Our courses are designed to help design leaders move from self-doubt to confident with pragmatic and applicable approaches. Graduates have gone on to become a better partner, a better collaborator, and a better leader — with or without Design Twitter approval.

CDO School is not for everyone, but it might be for you. If you know someone who might benefit, I hope you’ll share this with them.

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