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Fearful Leaders

 

Leadership Fear of Failure

Of all the challenges leaders face, none is more pervasive yet hidden than fear of failure. Leadership is a tough job that requires courage. Doubts, insecurities and fears make organizational challenges more difficult and, in extreme cases, insurmountable. No matter how confident you may appear, anxiety can occur at pivotal times in your career.

Fearful leaders can debilitate their organizations’ ability to function, compromising productivity, decision-making, strategic thinking and employee management. They’re likely to experience issues in their personal lives, as well.

Fear of failure can sometimes be suppressed, but when this proves impossible, you can no longer ignore it.

Recognize the Signs

Fear of failure has several telltale—and observable—signs. You’re likely to set your ambitions too low or too high, explains entrepreneurship expert Robert Kelsey, author of What’s Stopping You?: Why Smart People Don’t Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can (Capstone, 2012).

Goals set too low reflect a lack of self-confidence and a fear of achieving normal benchmarks, he explains in a 2012 CNN.com article. Conversely, goals set too high serve as a mask for your insecurities. Failure is expected, as no one could possibly achieve these targets—which means there shouldn’t be any criticism.

A second sign of fear of failure is a tendency to procrastinate. If you can put off achieving a goal, you can also delay the dreaded failure. Look for unfounded hesitancy, second-guessing and finding “reasons” to delay or alter plans.

Other signs of fear of failure include:

·      A consistent pattern of indecision

·      Anxiety over risks or change

·      An excessive desire or attempt to control circumstances

·      An inability to delegate or trust others to perform tasks “correctly”

·      Perfectionism (often leading to micromanagement)

The Causes

A childhood history of pain or suffering can lead you to anticipate the worst and expect negative outcomes. Growing up around fearful people also plays a role, as does a lack of positive adult role models. Children in these environments struggle to learn optimism and perseverance.

Traumatic experiences framed by failure can train your mind to distrust life in general. Past humiliations and rejections can scar one’s spirit to the point of dismay and fear.

Placing too high a value on a specific goal transforms it into an unrealistic objective. This can distort reality to the point of obsession and magnify the possibility of failure.

Perspective Is Everything

While fear may not be completely eliminated, it can be overcome, Kelsey notes. A major shift in perspective is required.

Begin by recognizing that no one is immune to failure. Coming to grips with fear, understanding that it’s real and knowing if it’s affecting your leadership (and life) are steps in the right direction.

But many fears are unhealthy, including the fear of failure. It’s perfectly OK—and, in fact, advisable—to name it for what it is and devise strategies for dealing with it. It’s admirable to watch someone admit a fear and make the decision to address it. It’s painful to watch someone deny or hide behind a fear, allowing it to take over. Such fears are seldom secret. 

Another positive shift in perspective is recognizing that people survive failures all the time. Failure is really not the black cloud some believe it to be. It’s rarely the final blow. Life goes on. If you worry about other people judging you, your fears are likely overblown. Everyone has experienced failure at one time or another, so it tends to make us less critical of others.

Failure actually has intrinsic benefits. We learn and grow through failing. Wisdom, work ethic, strength and self-improvement are seldom attributable to a continued string of successes. There’s no better way to discover your strengths and weaknesses than through failure’s lessons. People admire humility and openness, which engender trust.

Fear: Name It, Claim It, Reframe It

Several process-oriented changes can lessen the effects of failure or reduce its likelihood. In general, conquering fear is a process of naming it, claiming it and reframing it.

·      Assess the possible outcomes of a given situation. Make a list of the general causes and probabilities of each outcome. Most of the time, the likelihood of success is greater than that of failure if you apply your best planning and management efforts.

·      Recall past experiences where positive outcomes occurred in situations where failure was possible. A track record of positive results is not an accident. You devised plans and allocated resources that set you up for success. Sometimes, a fear of failure leads you to believe that doom is a random, come-out-of-nowhere strike of fate. In most cases, however, several unfortunate missteps must occur to generate a bona fide failure. Even if this sequence is initiated, you can make adjustments to counter it.

·      Reflect on colleagues’ experiences. Even when failure hit them, did it do them in? Not likely. They kept going, adjusting, learning, growing and getting better at their jobs.

·      Focus on the journey instead of fixating on the destination. We usually experience achievement in incremental steps, as we plan, adjust, correct and celebrate. Individual steps are easier to grasp and foresee, and failure is less likely as this process plays out. If failure becomes a concern, handle it incrementally, as well.

 

·      Set smaller, achievable goals to build confidence and moderate risks. Raise the bar gradually to enhance self-assurance. Emphasize the positive aspects of each step, while correcting or adjusting, to minimize the negative aspects. Choose your areas of focus.

·      Ask for help or advice, when necessary. You’ll feel more secure when trusted colleagues, mentors or coaches offer input and guidance. There’s no need to go it alone.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put strengths-based leadership into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to build a company culture built on trust? Transformational leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a transformational leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders create a culture where respect and trust flourish.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i 2.0, Hogan Lead, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture strengths-based conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching and leadership development firm helping innovative companies and law firms develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders. We help build coaching cultures of positive engagement.

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Advisor to Executive Leadership Teams
 Emotional Intelligence & Mindful Leadership Workplace Expert

I coach leaders to cultivate clarity, creativity, focus, trust, and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders. 

Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded rare "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development. Alan Weiss, Ph.D., President, Summit Consulting Group

Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?

Did you know that research has demonstrated, that the most effective leaders model high emotional intelligence, and that EQ can be learned? It takes self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to become a more emotionally intelligent leader. 

Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company.  Mindful leadership starts from within.

I am a consulting psychologist and executive coach. I believe coaching is a collaborative process of providing people with the resources and opportunities they need to self manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective. Utilizing instrumented assessments - clients set clear goals, make optimal use of their strengths, and take action to create desired changes aligned with personal values.

I have been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, MSNBC, CBS Health Watch and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, Forbes and Fast Company.

Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness.

After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity, and more stress resiliency helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results.

You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible. 

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

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