Once you have been appointed to your new (or first )leadership role or perhaps have taken over your role as business owner with a team, it can a take a little while to settle in to a new day to day routine and to get to know what your “job” actually is. It might feel like you are lost especially, if you were very experienced in your last role and knew it inside out, if you had well practised ways of working, habits, routines and rituals that served you well and maybe even have helped to get you this position. During this time of uncertainty, self-doubt and fears may creep in which, if left unchecked, can hinder your performance and confidence in the present and track with you through your career as you move forwards.
In my experience of coaching and developing new leaders, and from being one myself, everyone has fears. Fears are completely normal. You are not weird, failing, or inhuman. YOU ARE NORMAL!!! Fear serves us, keeps us alert and on our toes, helps us to grow, motivates us to step out of our comfort zones but it can also make us procrastinate, be debilitating and hold us back from achieving our goals and ambitions.
I have worked with many new leaders who consistently name the following fears as very real to them and being blockers to their success when they started out on their leadership journey. In fact, I would go so far as to say, they are also common fears in leaders at all levels….. not just new ones.
So here they are ……
1. Fear of not being good enough
A fear of being found out for not being good enough, or believing you are undeserving of the job. (otherwise known as “Imposter Syndrome”.) This fear can be crippling. From a loss of confidence to constant self-doubt and self-criticism it can lead to unhelpful behaviours which undermine relationships and trust and cause leaders to either shy away from doing anything that makes them stand out and puts them in the spotlight to acting rashly, taking unnecessary risks and becoming highly defensive when challenged or criticised.
2. Fear of failure
This one is often linked to the fear of not being good enough. “What if I don’t deliver the results? That will prove what I knew all along and then I’ll surely be found out as not good enough!”. Fear of under achieving can lead to a lack of focus on goals and targets as you try to spin every plate without dropping one and wanting to do everything yourself because you believe it will be done “best” if you do it. (otherwise known as micro managing) It can also lead to a lack of adequate reflection time, not learning from mistakes and also not seeing opportunities when they arise.
3. Fear of appearing vulnerable
Again, for me, this one is linked to the two fears above. “If I show that I don’t know and I don’t have the answers, then I won’t get the results and that will prove I’m not good enough” However, knowing your own strengths and skills gaps will mean you can better utilise the strengths of the team you have, build relationships and trust and show you are human. Knowing when to ask for help and support is a key part of being a leader. Demonstrating you can admit that you don’t know, or need to go and find out, not only reduces pressure on yourself, it encourages the team to do the same whilst building more collaborative and psychologically safe working environments.
4. Fear of holding people accountable
The fear of holding people accountable for delivery of results can often be founded in a need to be liked, not knowing how to deal with difficult situations or not knowing how to react if you are disagreed with. It will be almost impossible to hold people to account if you haven’t set and communicated clear objectives, targets and performance measures to begin with. Not holding people accountable normally ends badly as you will most likely end up doing a lot of the work yourself and other team members will be resentful of action not being taken against those not pulling their weight.
5. Fear of communicating
Having great communication skills is essential for any leader but they don’t come naturally to everyone. Many leaders are uncomfortable with at least some aspects of communication. Maybe it’s having difficult conversations, giving a presentation, public speaking, holding a team meeting or offering a controversial opinion so they avoid these key aspects of the role and end up communicating much less than is both wanted and needed by the team.
What’s the cost?
The fallout from leaders’ fear driven dysfunctional behaviours is costly and includes poor relationships, loss of trust, poor judgments coupled with bad decision making, silo working, lack of honest conversations, game playing and the biggest of all, the knock on effect of cascading those behaviours to the next level down …….which is how (poor) culture is born.
What can you do?
Fears are rooted deep within us. Often the thing we fear is actually founded in our belief system. Mastering these fears and facing into our beliefs by having strategies to recognise them, work on and through them, are key to increasing your effectiveness earlier in your role.
The good news is that ALL the skills, knowledge, mindsets and behaviours required to become a highly successful, confident and competent leader can be learnt, honed, practised and developed .
The leaders I coach have all kinds of fears so know that, whatever form your fears take, once you learn to identify them you can tackle them head-on and you’ll quickly realise you can do and be anything you want.
Contact me to discuss how I can assist you in learning to identify, face and overcome your leadership fears.