Fear of Leadership is Real – Here’s How You Can Overcome It

Are you afraid of being in a leadership role? Do you feel you’re not good enough or that you don’t have what it takes?

Many people feel like they’re not cut out for a leadership role because they’re afraid of making mistakes or being judged by their peers. It’s something that many people struggle with, especially with their career. That fear of leadership is real, but it doesn’t have to control your life.

By the end of this article, you will understand how to overcome that fear and finally become the leader you were meant to be.

Understanding the Fear of Leadership

The first step is admitting that you’re afraid. This might seem like a simple decision, but many people try to bottle up their fear instead of facing it head-on. If you can’t admit that you’re afraid, you’ll never be able to overcome it. Once you’ve admitted that you’re afraid, you can work on conquering your fear.

There’s plenty of research and literature that explores fear-based leadership and its negative effects on organizational culture. Unfortunately, there is limited research about fear-related emotions and its effects on the well-being of leaders.

Özlem Yürekli Türkdoğan did one research that stood out while she was at the Koç University. She conducted 2 different studies with over 500 people to develop a measure of fear of leadership (FOL).

She included several constructs in her research, such as:

  • Concerns over negative consequences of success (CONCOS)
  • Neuroticism
  • Motivation to lead (MTL)
  • Cultural intelligence (CQ)
  • Future leadership intention

Her study concluded that the relationship with fear of leadership was positively associated with concerns over negative consequences of success, neuroticism, and negatively associated with future leadership intention. However, fear of leadership was not associated with motivation to lead.

Knowing the Fear of Leadership

Understanding the fear of leadership was just a start. As you recognize your fears, you will know them better. Yes, you should know your fears. Before I give you the top 7 fears, I’d like to thank the author Željko (‘Zed’) Zidarić for defining the term Ductophobia = ducto – Latin ductus means leadership + phobia – Greek phóbos means fear.

We can finally attach a name to the fear of leadership -> Ductophobia.

1. Fear of Criticism

The first and one of the common leadership fears is the fear of criticism. People are afraid that they will make a mistake and be ridiculed or rejected by others. This leadership fear can prevent people from taking risks and trying new things.

You need to understand that you cannot please everyone all the time. You will make mistakes, but that’s okay. What counts is how you handle them. When you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it. Criticism can actually be helpful if you let it be.

By routinely asking for anonymous feedback from your team, you can confront your fears head-on. You can use 360-degree reviews and questionnaires with specific inquiries about how successful you are in your role.

2. Fear of Failure

This leadership fear is closely related to the first one. It’s normal to be afraid of failure, but you need to learn to embrace it. In order to grow as a leader, you need to take risks. And in order to take risks, you need to accept that you will fail sometimes.

The best way to overcome this leadership fear is to have a growth mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. You’re not afraid to take risks because you know that even if you fail, you’ll be able to learn from the experience and come out stronger.

If you want to overcome your fear of leadership, start by developing a growth mindset. Believe in yourself and your ability to grow as a leader. Embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and become better.

3. Fear of Responsibility

Another common leadership fear is the fear of responsibility. Your priority as a leader should be your team—not clients or shareholders. If you take care of your people, the rest will follow.

Start by taking small steps and gradually increasing your level of responsibility. When you’re ready, take on more leadership roles and challenges. Be patient with yourself and don’t expect to be perfect.

Carrying the responsibility for someone’s livelihood is stressful, so it’s important to provide clear direction to your people, then give them support and tools they need to succeed. Shouldering the responsibility will feel much lighter when it’s shared among your team members.

4. Fear of Being Accountable

The root of many leadership fears is the fear of being accountable. We worry that we’ll make a mistake and be blamed for it—or that we’ll be exposed as a fraud. Accountability is something that comes with being the leader.

Many people try to avoid accountability by blaming others, which leads to toxic culture in the organization. The challenge I notice often among managers is the fact that you can’t delegate accountability. The moment you accept it, as a leader, you will feel empowered to find solutions to the challenges and become an outstanding role model to your team.

5. Fear of An Imposter Syndrome

One of the most common leadership fears is the fear of an imposter syndrome. It is the idea that we are not supposed to be where we are, and that someone will find out that we don’t deserve our position.

In the early days of my corporate career, I would always question my ability to do the role I was given. Why did they hire me?

This leadership fear can paralyze because it’s based on self-doubt. The first step to overcoming this leadership fear is recognizing that everyone feels like an imposter at some point in their career. Second, build a support system of people who will remind you of your successes and help you reframe your failures.

Conquering self-doubt is key to making a significant difference in your life and work.

6. Fear of Making Decisions

Fear of making decisions often affects leaders in the early stages of their career. We expect leaders to have all the answers, but the truth is, they don’t. No one has all the answers, and that’s okay.

Part of being a leader is learning how to decide quickly and efficiently. The best way to overcome this leadership fear is to educate yourself on the decision-making process.

There are a few key steps you can take to help you make better decisions:

  • Define the problem
  • Gather information
  • Consider all options
  • Make a decision
  • Evaluate the outcome

Making decisions can be difficult, but it’s something all leaders have to do. The more you practice, the easier it will become.

7. Fear of Speaking Out

Another leadership fear that many people face is the fear of speaking out. This can be a difficult one to overcome, but it’s important to remember that your voice matters. As a leader, you have the influence to make change happen, and the responsibility to use your voice to speak up for what you believe in. If you’re afraid of speaking out, start by practicing in small settings.

Once you become more comfortable, you can start speaking up in larger groups. You can also practice what you want to say ahead of time. This will help you feel more prepared and confident when it’s time to speak.

Facing Your Fear of Leadership

The fear of leadership is real, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Leadership is all about taking risks. The more risks you take, the more chances you have to succeed. Don’t let your fears hold you back from becoming the leader you were meant to be. Remember that leadership is about making a difference in the lives of your people, your organization, and your community.

The best way to make a difference is by improving your communication skills as a leader. Check out the article below next and learn 7 ways to anticipate challenges and develop your own communication style.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this article, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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John Todorovic

John Todorovic

I help aspiring and existing leaders improve their skills through effective coaching.

As a restless knowledge seeker, I love acquiring new knowledge on a daily basis through various types of research techniques. All this aligns with my life's mission: sharing knowledge is a privilege and an obligation.

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