Written by Kathy Fauble, M.Ed., Director, and Liz Swanson, Assistant Director, ICAHN Professional Education Services

Since the story first broke several years ago, I've been following the fall from grace of former Thernos CEO, Elizabeth Holmes. Once the darling of Silicon Valley, Ms. Holmes promised to revolutionize lab testing with a single drop of blood. Venture capitalists invested heavily in the idea and she pulled together a board of directors consisting of a former Secretary of State and other high-profile individuals. The only problem was the technology never worked, and she is now on trial in Federal Court for fraud. Her defense has always been, "it just didn't work yet," leaning heavily on a "fake it 'til you make it" mentality. Writing about the Holmes story, Wall Street Journal reporter Andy Kessler took her to task, noting, "Fail until you succeed, beats fake it 'til you make it."

Fake it 'til you make it is advice that is often given to new supervisors and leaders. And why not? Sometimes you have to fake a little confidence and put on a brave face. The trick is to know when it hurts you instead of helping you. Faking it doesn't lead to success unless you are willing to look at your mistakes and learn from them. But that's hard. Most of us have a tough time seeing failure as the key to success. Thomas Edison was the exception. When working on the lightbulb he famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

So, when should you fake it and when do you need to be honest with yourself and those around you? When it's a matter of confidence, put on that brave face. It's a great tool when you are asked to step outside of your comfort zone to do a public speech or lead an important meeting. But when it comes to knowledge, pretending to know when you don't is more likely to hurt than help you. The better strategy is to do your research, ask for help, and own up to your weaknesses. Your co-workers will always appreciate you being honest over pretending to know something you don't.