Three Fears That Shape Your Leadership


One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of the great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. – Henry Ford

The story is told of two explorers who were on a jungle safari when suddenly a ferocious lion jumped in front of them. “Keep calm” the first man whispered. “Remember what we read in that book on wild animals? If you stand perfectly still and look the lion in the eye, he will turn and run.” “Sure,” replied his companion. “You’ve read the book, and I’ve read the book. But has the lion read the book?”

What’s your phobia? For some it’s a fear of heights, or flying. For others it may be riding in an elevator, speaking in public, or Friday the 13th. For me, it’s spiders. I can handle most anything you throw my way, but for some reason spiders creep me out.

You will face many challenges as a leader. One the best discoveries to make on your leadership journey is that some of the things you were afraid of were, in fact, nothing to be afraid of at all. It’s as you grow and gain confidence in your talents and abilities that you can look back on some of your unfounded fears and smile. So what fears can actually make you a better leader? Here are three for your consideration.

The fear of thinking too big – This fear is rooted in the “what if?” mentality.

Donald Trump said, “I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you may as well think big.” That’s the rub with some leaders. They had rather play it safe with small thinking. After all, small thinking equals small risks. But big thinking requires big risks and big sacrifices. And did I mention the issue of pride? After all, as the logic goes, how would it look if I failed?

Let me ask you the question that’s been around for a while. What would you attempt if you knew that you could not fail? Leaders who think big had rather fail at attempting something big than succeed at something small. You overcome this fear of thinking too big with hard work and dedication. Don’t let the fear of thinking too big hold you back. Embrace your big ideas, goals, and dreams and see where they take you.

The fear of overestimating your potential – This fear is rooted in a “who me? mentality.

This is a fear that causes you to think too little of your gifts, talents, and leadership abilities. If you ever buy-in to the notion that you are not meant to be where you are, doing what you are doing, and possessing the skills to be there, you will never reach your full potential.

Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence- is the key to unlocking our potential.” Your potential is always fluid as you continue to grow. Your level of potential today is not the same as it was five years ago simply based on your growth. The bar will be higher five years out as your growth pattern continues. The key here is to have faith in your abilities and to never entertain negative thoughts or attitudes that would hold you back. Your potential will be unlimited when you take the limits off your potential.

The fear of empowering others – This fear is rooted in the “why them?” mentality.

Every smart leader understands the impact and importance of empowered teams. Empowered teams are more productive, create positive energy, and build morale in ways you can’t do when individuals are isolated from one another. But a fear of empowering others can undercut that culture and progress.

The fear of empowering others likely has less to do with your team than it does with your own insecurities or fear of not being in control. Whatever the reason; it’s a hindrance to your progress and success. But when you shed that fear and believe in your people, you can unleash your team to do what they were meant to do. Empowering others begins as you overpower your fears.

Every leader faces fear. That’s common. How you respond to your fear will determine the shape of your leadership. Don’t be afraid to think big, be confident in yourself and your abilities, and empower others. When you do fear can’t win.


© 2014 Doug Dickerson


I welcome your feedback:

1. What fears have held you back on your journey as a leader?

2. How can you work to overcome them?

3. How can you help others overcome their fears?



About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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2 Responses to Three Fears That Shape Your Leadership

  1. Pingback: Three Fears That Shape Your Leadership | lizstincelli

  2. Reblogged this on chrisalbrycht and commented:
    A great exercise in self-reflection. Something we all should take the time to do more of.


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