Fear and Leadership

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We all have fears. How we acknowledge and work with them has an enormous impact on our leadership style and on our organizations.

Roger Jones, of Vantage Hill Partners, recently published a piece on “What CEOs Are Afraid Of.” Studying CEOs and executives across a range of demographics, Jones found that the number one fear of leaders is “being found to be incompetent.” The impact? Diminished confidence and quality of relationships. Other top fears include underachieving, appearing vulnerable, being politically attacked by colleagues and appearing foolish.

  • The five top fears resulted in these dysfunctional behaviors: a lack of honest conversations, too much political game playing, silo thinking, lack of ownership and follow-through, and tolerating bad behaviors.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? No organization – or family – is exempt. When my own children were going through elementary school, I encouraged them to substitute “I’m learning” for “I’m sorry.” This encouraged an emotional growth mindset and sometimes made admitting mistakes easier. In the workplace silos are frequently built to protect turf and budgets. When people can reach out and build bridges across silos they create more connected and well-run projects.

Jones found several paths for a leader to reduce fear, including being aware of one’s own fears, valuing emotional intelligence, sharing personal stories, and encouraging open and honest communication.

Fears exist. Leaders within organizations need to work with teams to build trust, communication and shared values.

IMG_3461Resources:

  • Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: A groundbreaking work which posits that being emotionally aware, or having a high EQ, can be more critical than having a high IQ in the workplace and beyond.
  • The work of Robert Putnam. A Harvard Kennedy School professor, Putnam is best known for Bowling Alone and Making Democracy WorkBetter Together, which followed Bowling Alone, addresses our social currency and our need for community.

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