8 Really Big Fears of Being a Leader

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really big fears

8 Really Big Fears of Being a Leader

Being a leader is not always easy.  Those who find themselves in the role of a leader often find it overwhelming.  For some people the fear of being a leader carries with it some very strong feelings and emotions. Some leaders do not find it easy to address their fear.  In fact, some leaders have never identified their fears.

Fear is a reality.  It also is something that has destroyed the leadership influence of many great leaders.  Fears of leading can be approached in three ways:

  1. You can pretend that your fears do not exist and hope they will go away.
  2. You can face your fears and try to overpower them.
  3. You can recognize your fears and claim them for what they are and deal with them.

As you look at these three ways of approaching fear, recognize that the first two are very weak.  Ignoring a fear or trying to overpower it will only lead to exhaustion and burnout.  However, recognizing your fears and acknowledging them for what they are will allow any leader to deal with fear in a productive way.

Before any leader can deal with fear they must recognize the areas of life that causes anxiety and fear.  Here are 8 fears that a good leader may face.

1.  Fear of Criticism

Most people do not enjoy nor want to be criticized.  Shana Schutte put it this way,

“Ever since you were small, someone has been telling you what you can’t do. Your mother told you that you couldn’t walk down the middle of the street, your father told you that you couldn’t ride your bike without reflectors and your teachers told you that you couldn’t run in the hallway.

During life, there are hundreds of people who not only tell us what we cannot do, but what we can’t accomplish.

“You can’t be a chemist. You’re not analytical enough.”
“You can’t be a professional singer. You’re not attractive enough.”

“There is no way you’ll make it as a teacher. You’re not patient enough.”

Sadly, we often fear the criticism of others and when it does happen, we take it to heart. For this reason, even into adulthood, we’re often waiting for someone to tell us it’s OK to “cross the street” to our God-given purpose because we are afraid that if we blow it we’ll look like an idiot—and then what will they say?” (Overcoming Fear of Criticism to Fulfill Your Purpose, Shana Schutte)

2.  Fear of Failure

Here are some things to consider about being afraid to fail.  Failure will certainly lead to fear if it is allowed.

  1. Being afraid to fail makes you fear what other people think about you.
  2. Being afraid to fail makes you fear to pursue the future you desire.
  3. Being afraid to fail makes you fear people will lose interest in you.
  4. Being afraid to fail makes you fear and worry about how smart you are.
  5. Being afraid to fail makes you fear disappointing people whose opinion you value.
  6. Being afraid to fail will lead you to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower expectations.
  7. Being afraid to fail destroys imagination.

These seven fears do not have to take place.

3.  Fear of Not Being Popular

Popularity and the desire to be popular can cause a lot of problems.   Abraham Lincoln once said, “ Avoid popularity if you would have peace.”

4.  Fear to Lead Due to Past Failures

There is one thing that makes a dream or a goal impossible to achieve; it is the fear of failing.  Failure is one thing that even the strongest, most intelligent, most confident of us fear. Whether it is starting a new project or succeeding at the one, it’s difficult to escape the concern in the back of our mind that we might fail.

5.  Fear of Making a Mistake

Making mistakes is simply part of living.  When we become afraid to launch forward, because we are afraid, we miss many great opportunities.  George Bernard Shaw put it this way, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”

6.  Fear of Not Being Born to Be a Leader

Are leaders born?  Do some people have the character of leadership from birth?

Erika Andersen  in Forbes magazine gives this answer, “……..people tend to ask me a few questions over and over.  By far the most common (in fact, I have yet to do an interview where this question wasn’t asked) is “Are leaders born or made?”  Interestingly, I’ve noticed that most interviewers think they already know the correct answer:  they believe leaders are born.  That is, they assume that some people come into this world with a natural capacity to lead, and everybody else doesn’t, and there’s not much you can do about it.

What I’ve learned by observing thousands of people in business over the past 30 years, though, is that – like most things – leadership capability falls along a bell curve.  Some people are, indeed, born leaders.  These folks at the top of the leadership bell curve start out very good, and tend to get even better as they go along. Then there are the folks at the bottom of the curve: that bottom 10-15% of people who, no matter how hard they try, simply aren’t ever going to be very good leaders.  They just don’t have the innate wiring.

Then there’s the big middle of the curve, where the vast majority of us live. And that’s where the real potential for “made” leaders lies.  It’s what most of my interviewers assume isn’t true – when, in fact, it is: most folks who start out with a modicum of innate leadership capability can actually become very good, even great leaders.” (Are Leaders Born Or Made? Forbes, Erika Anderson)

7.  Fear of Not Knowing Enough to Be a Leader

The word used to describe the fear of the unknown is “xenophobe.” This refers to a person who fears the unknown.

Fearing one’s limitations of knowledge has often held many potential leaders back from fulfilling their potential.

8.  Fear of Being Rejected

The fear of rejection is a powerful and overwhelming fear! It can have a far-reaching impact into our lives. Most people experience extreme nervousness when placing themselves in situations that could lead to rejection.  The fear of being rejected can become crippling.  Untreated fear of rejection worsens over time and gradually takes over every part of life.

Fear of rejection can take place during periods of job interviews, dating, peer pressure, business dealings, meeting new people, marriage and many other experiences of life.

Rejection does not have to be a negative experience.  Sylvester Stallone once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”


Each of us will have to face fear at some time or another. We have to deal with it in some fashion if we intend to be a leader.

The overriding goal of a strong leader is to never be afraid of accomplishing the mission.

James C. Clawson says this about becoming a leader,

“I say leadership can be taught. But then, I have a unique definition of leadership.  I think leadership is about managing energy, first in yourself and then in those around you. What this definition implies is that unless you are deeply committed to an outcome that others can engage in and understand, no amount of teaching will make you a leader.” (Is Leadership Born or Built? James G. Clawson, The Washington Post)

Dale Roach

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