Impact of self-doubts on leaders at a point of transition in the workplace

Azua, Maria Veronica (2021) Impact of self-doubts on leaders at a point of transition in the workplace. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex.

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Inner self-critical voices are scrutinising, attacking, and discouraging. They are also a pervasive part of human nature, which seems to have become more dominant in current times. This qualitative research study examines the effects of self-doubts and self-criticism on individuals holding a leadership role at a point of transition in the workplace. Taking a systems-psychodynamic perspective, this study aims to explore the origins and consequences of self-doubts, looking at both the individual (intra-psychic) perspective as well as the systemic (psycho-social) aspect of self-doubts. Situated within the social-constructivist paradigm, case study was chosen as a research design strategy and Grounded Theory methodology was used for data analysis. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of eight participants in leadership positions who had experienced a role transition while working in commercial organisations. Key findings suggest that the impact of self-doubts might be linked to the individual’s self-worth, sense of belonging, and need for external validation. An elite group identity, created as a social-defence mechanism, is collectively and unconsciously developed by members of an organisation to deal with self-doubts anxiety. Looking beyond the individual’s intra-psychic experience, another significant finding in this study is linked to the specific characteristics of the wider organisational and societal contexts in which these leaders operate, and the impacts of these characteristics on these individuals. The overlap between the individual and the system seems to create a re-enforcing cycle of self-doubts anxiety, which might have detrimental consequences for individuals and organisations. On this basis, it is recommended to create space for self-reflection and interventions at individual, group, and organisational levels, using an integrative approach to deal with the impact of self-doubts.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Essex in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation. Available for download 4 January 2026.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation, D10D, Embargoed
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Groups & Organisations > Organisational Development
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Consultation
Department/People: Adult and Forensic Services

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