FEAR1There is a great post in Inc Magazine that discusses five common leadership fears and how to get over them. These are the fears they have identified:

  • Criticism
  • Failure
  • Making Decisions
  • Speaking
  • Responsibility

I like the list as it’s a good summary of leadership fears but in my mind these fears are all related to one central fear and that is fear of failure.

  • If you don’t listen to criticism, you will never find out that you have failed.
  • If you don’t make decisions, you can’t fail.
  • If you shut up, no one will know you’re wrong.
  • If it isn’t your responsibility, you haven’t failed.

Now the post goes on to recommend how people can get over each of these fears but since they all relate to a fear of failure, there should be one central way of overcoming the fear of failure. To get there we need to look at why people are so afraid of failure.

I think it all comes down to an inability to be vulnerable. Now here I am talking about this mushy emotional intelligence stuff again but it really does help to be aware of what’s going on emotionally as there isn’t always a logical solution to a problem. And while you can be aware, it doesn’t mean you have to deal with these random emotion things, just acknowledge the source.

So vulnerability, Brene Brown’s favourite subject, rears its ugly head again. Vulnerability as defined, refers to the inability to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. That’s what happens when you fail, the environment gets hostile.

But there is an easy way of getting over the problem of vulnerability at work and that is by realizing that no one cares about you anyway, they really only care about themselves. These other people who might be criticizing you are just letting you know what their needs are.

They want to be recognized, to be heard, to be listened to and to be right. If you play to their needs, it really won’t matter that you failed. Just listen to them, acknowledge that they are right, that you were wrong and that you failed and you will have met their needs.

I guarantee that they won’t remember that you failed but instead that you are a good listener and very agreeable, someone who makes them feel better by meeting their needs.