Written by: LOLLY DASKAL
Everybody has fears—and that means every leader has fears. But not letting those fears get the best of you is an important part of successful leadership. If you don’t learn to manage your fears, you’ll be tempted to take the kind of shortcuts that undermine your authority and influence. Here are seven of the most common fears that leaders, in particular, need to look out for:
The fear of being seen as an imposter. If you secretly feel you’re not really good enough or smart enough for leadership, you’re not alone. But left unchecked, those feelings can do harm to your effectiveness. Fear can make you forget everything and want to run. Instead, leverage your fear by experiencing it and being great anyway. As Mark Twain once said, courage is the resistance to fear, not the absence of fear. You can feel the fear and still be who you want to be as a leader.
The fear of being criticized. Facing criticism is part of the territory of leadership. You don’t have to let it bother you—in fact, you should be concerned if you never hear criticism, because that means you’re probably playing too safe. Think of it this way: If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success. So don’t fear criticism but take it in stride and strive to be your own best and meet your own standard of excellence. On the other side of your fear is everything you need to be.
The fear of being a failure. When you fail as a leader, you get everyone’s attention. Failure is something we all fear, but it doesn’t have to mean it’s fatal to your leadership— think of failure as simply part of succeeding. When you become afraid to fail forward, you end up missing out on new learning experiences and new opportunities. In the end we regret only the chances we didn’t take.
The fear of not being a good communicator. Not everyone is born to be a great communicator, but good communication skills are essential to leadership. if you are fearful that you’re not good at communicating in a compelling way—in a way that inspires and motivates others—practice your speaking or writing skills. The more you practice and rehearse and revise, the more confident you will be and the less fearful you will become.
The fear of making hard decisions. As a leader, you need to be able to make hard decisions without getting stuck in “paralysis of analysis”—taking too long to choose because of indecision. A lack of decisiveness can cripple any business or organization. Hard choices are sometimes necessary without much time to reflect. Make the best decision you can based on where you want to go, not where you are, and then move on.
The fear of not taking responsibility. As the saying goes, with much power comes much responsibility. To take responsibility you have to first realize that your leadership is the cause of and the solution to the things that matter, and you can’t escape that responsibly by postponing or evading it. The moment you move past your fear and take responsibility is the moment you can change anything.
The fear of not getting it done. In today’s global economy, effective leadership is defined by results—but, as we all know well, there are hundreds of distractions and millions of diversions that can get in the way. If you’re fearful you won’t get the job done, stop focusing on the results you want and concentrate on the actions you can take right now that will lead to those results.
Lead from within: These are just a few of the possibilities. The leaders I coach have all kinds of fears. Whatever form your fears take, once you learn you can tackle them head-on you’ll quickly realize you can handle anything.