What does Fear in Leadership look like and How do Leaders overcome it?

leadership challenge

When you look up “what is leadership” online, the very first response on Google is that “Leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organisation”. This act of leading and giving guidance can be equal parts exciting and challenging. While leaders have the ability to influence and bring about meaningful change, there are also many roadblocks that they face, which can be daunting. In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the fears leaders go through and how they can be overcome.

Fears and Biases in Leadership.

  • Public Persona – Leaders have the spotlight always shining on them. If you are a leader, everything you do is constantly scrutinised and discussed upon by your employees, which puts a lot of pressure to do the right thing, at all times. The public nature of the role expands when your organisation is large or when media exposure on your firm increases. 

  • Lack of self-belief and vision- If leaders don’t believe in themselves, they constantly question and undermine everything they do. This leads to lower levels of self-esteem and confidence, which negatively impacts their leadership ability and effectiveness. This lack of confidence can also lead to not being able to clearly define their vision for the team/organisation. A lack of vision can trickle down very easily, leading to a lot of ambiguity amongst everyone involved.

  • Fear of criticism in decision making– Most times, leaders find themselves in high-pressure situations where they are the decision maker and fully accountable for it. Any failure here sparks criticism and can have far-reaching consequences. Fear of criticism makes leaders indecisive and fearful of taking difficult decisions, as the majority of the criticism would rest solely on the leader’s shoulders. This can derail the decision making process and also make leaders want to shift the blame onto someone else, which causes discontent and distrust towards the leader.

  • Fear of failure and responsibility- All roles and jobs are result-oriented and not achieving them is considered a failure. With the spotlight on them, this failure is quite apparent to everyone. The fear of ‘failing’ can make leaders hesitant to take up responsibility, instead of objectively examining the situation and coming out of it stronger. Lack of responsibility by a leader becomes extremely damaging and leads to unprecedented delays and eventually, work not getting done.

  •  Fear of communicating effectively- Good communication skills are essential to leadership, and not everyone possesses the necessary skills. A lot of people are fearful of public speaking as well. When the message from the leadership is not communicated effectively, it creates a distance between them and the rest of the team/organisation, which is very difficult to bridge. It also leads to lack of clarity on the general expectations for everyone, which creates a lack of direction.

How can these Fears be Overcome.

  • Training and Counseling- This is a common approach used by companies to tackle fear in their leaders.  A lot of organisations engage experienced trainers to coach and guide their leadership to be more assertive, decisive, and accept criticism. Effective communication skills is another area that a lot of leaders are trained on, with special focus paid on public speaking. In addition to trainers, there are a lot of leadership books and courses also available.

  • Leading through Collaboration-. When leaders stay connected with their teams/employees, they can get a better understanding of the organisation’s pulse and understand what needs to be resolved. Involving others in the decision making process ensures everyone is on the same page and reduces the chances of making mistakes. When leaders are transparent, humble and act with integrity, they are leading by example and also making things clear for everyone involved.

  • Effective goal-setting- Defining achievable goals can help getting things done faster and better and ensures that the leader is able to meet the desired results/outcomes. For leaders who are just starting out, focusing on achieving short-term goals initially is a good way to start as it builds confidence. In case the goals look difficult to attain, creating definitive action plans that work towards achieving them will prove to be beneficial.

    Remember that these fears can be overcome easily when a leader is open to new experiences, eager to learn, accepts feedback easily and stays prepared for any challenges that might come their way. Once you have conquered these fears, victory shall be yours!

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