Leadership can be many things; rewarding, encouraging and motivating but often overlooked is the fear. Leading others can be, in a word, terrifying. The decisions, the speed, the projects, the people. It can all quickly turn from fascinating to fearful. Like any skill, mastering effective leadership means we must overcome the fears and obstacles that stand in our way. What are the common fears that leaders face on a regular basis? How can we overcome them in our lives and in our teams? Let’s talk about it.
1. Making the Wrong Decision
Decision making is the currency of leadership. A leader who doesn’t make decisions is a LINO, Leader In Name Only. A leader’s choices and decisions, while never 100% guaranteed, must be made from a combination of past experiences, knowledge, values and gut instinct. Not every decision will be a winner but the ability to make quality decisions in stressful times will give you the tools necessary to take your influence to the next level. Use the information you have to make the best decisions you can and move forward with commitment and flexibility.
2. Not Being Liked
I’m a big proponent of a social, friendly and warm working environment. Your most productive team members are your happiest team members. But there is a line leader’s cross in wanting to be like and needing to be liked. A leader should desire camaraderie and healthy relationships with their team but it’s not a requirement to lead. The truth is, not everyone will like you or every decision you make. A leader must be willing to make the tough but right decisions regardless of its popularity. You can’t and will never control what others think. You can only control the choices you make and the leader you become.
As a leader (especially the higher you go in an organization) your shortcomings are often highlighted more than your strengths. In leadership, criticism can be constant and from every direction. While most people don’t like criticism some can suffer from criticism-paralysis. The very thought of being criticized, paralyzes them from actually making a decision. The leader who avoids criticism will also avoid the circumstances that provide growth. Since criticism can’t and shouldn’t be avoided your best option is to get in front of it. Face the fear head on by normalizing feedback within your team. Humility accepts criticism as a form of growth not judgment.
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4. Failing Entirely
As a leader the fear of failure is personal. Every decision you make has the potential to propel or derail the entire team’s mission. The more passionate and invested the leader the more personal and gut wrenching the fear of failure. Most failures are not critical failures. When we fail, because it’s going to happen, resilient leaders quickly move to learn what they can and press on. Overcoming fear of failure isn’t easy but it is possible and necessary if you want to be a great leader.