Companies face myriad threats: a volatile economy, politics, cost overruns, competition and disruptive technology, among others. But there’s a particular internal threat that can dwarf them: fear at the leadership level.
Leadership fears can destroy a company in many ways, including:
- Indecisiveness, leading to missed opportunities;
- Emotional deception, which prompts bad decisions;
- Suppression of people, forcing high turnover;
- Insecurity that manifests as self-centeredness; or
- Confusion that causes leaders to miss threats at the doorstep.
Fearful leaders often cannot deal with difficult issues or conversations, so moderate troubles balloon into true crises. They also resist taking the risks necessary to move their companies forward.
Fears can take many forms: discomfort, incapacity, negative feelings, failure, and self-criticism. Each carries numerous side effects, most rooted in a fear of rejection. Fears make a leader ineffective and paralyzed. Plans are often forfeited, as is success.
We often forget that fears are part of the universal human experience. They’re normal, to some degree, even for leaders. The goal is to avoid compensating for them and, instead, identify and overcome them. A qualified executive coach can prove invaluable, as it can be difficult to recognize your own fears. Leaders who can successfully put their fears behind them – and learn from them – make the greatest strides.
The fear-reduction process has four fundamental pillars, as outlined by management consultant Peter Bregmen in Leading with Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, and Inspire Action on Your Most Important Work (Wiley, 2018):
- Fears are greatly influenced by a lack of self-confidence. Leaders who boost their confidence address the most challenging of the four pillars.
- Strengthen your relationships and support structure.
- Practicing intentionality moves leaders farther away from fear through focus and an effective game plan.
- Facing fears directly and exposing them puts them behind you for good.
Over the next four weeks we will be taking an in-depth at each of these four pillars of fear reduction for leaders. If you are interested in working with a leadership coach to understand and overcome your fears, I am happy to help you!