71% of U.S. CEOs Experience Imposter Syndrome, New Korn Ferry Research Finds

Korn Ferry Survey Examines Evolving Motivation Across the Employment Spectrum

LOS ANGELES, June 6, 2024 – Global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) today released its Workforce 2024 Global Insights Report, which examines attitudes affecting employee sentiment. The data shows a lack of personal confidence in senior leaders in their own ability to lead: 71% of US CEOs experience symptoms of imposter syndrome in their role.

In fact, low confidence and uncertainty is a common issue across every level in the workforce, according to the research informed by a survey of 10,000 global employees and led by Korn Ferry, the leading global organizational consulting firm.

“Meeting employees’ needs where they are is an ever-moving target for employers” said Mark Arian, CEO of Korn Ferry Consulting. “Increasingly, employees are looking to their employers to provide more guidance and care than ever before, but if they are uncertain in their own ability to lead, it sets a challenging precedent for motivation across the company.”

The report examines attitudes affecting employee sentiment in all stages and levels of employment, from what makes a job attractive to what makes an employee effective in a role. Key data points include:

  • It’s Lonely at the Top: Notably, the data shows that employees across all titles and compensation levels are struggling with feelings of doubt at work. Interestingly, senior management, including CEOs (71%) and other senior executives (65%) are more likely than early-stage professionals (33%) to exhibit signs of imposter syndrome. But this crisis of confidence contrasts with how they feel about their success and competence in their ability to perform the job functions with 85% of CEOs expressing that they are totally competent in the role.
  • Early-stage Professionals Are Struggling to Find Their Place: While senior leaders grapple with self-assurance, young professionals are lost trying to find their way in organizations. Over half of these employees are generally hesitant to speak with their managers about outside factors including personal problems or mental health and wellbeing. These employees aren’t bringing their authentic selves to work either. Less than half (49%) feel comfortable being themselves around colleagues. Unsurprisingly, early-stage professionals’ motivation at work is suffering – only 58% of young professionals feel motivated to do more than is required compared to 85% of CEOs.
  • While Stability and Flexibility Attract Talent, Compensation Drives Retention: Employees increasingly prize flexibility in their roles, indicating flexibility (33%), generous compensation (31%) and high-job security (26%) as key drivers of engagement. Unsurprisingly, compensation continues to be key for many employees. Notably, two-thirds (66%) say they would stay in a role they hated if it paid the salary they wanted. This increases for senior leaders, 74% of CEOs and 78% of senior executives would stay in a role they hated, if it paid the salary they wanted.
  • Workers Are Uncertain About the Impact of AI: Across age breakdowns, workers are hesitant about how AI will impact their daily workflows. While two in three employees (66%) feel positive about the potential impact of emerging technologies, more than half (55%) are simultaneously concerned that their role will be replaced by AI or other emerging technologies in the next three years.

The full Workforce 2024 Global Insights Report, along with reports on employee motivation globally, are forthcoming over the summer.


Korn Ferry surveyed 10,000 professionals at all levels, from entry-level to CEO, in six key markets: USA, UK, Brazil, Middle East, Australia, and India.

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with our clients to design optimal organization structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward and motivate their workforce while developing professionals as they navigate and advance their careers.

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