Managerial Courage: Overcoming your biggest leadership fears

Most leaders will face various types of fears while managing their team and executing their other responsibilities. These apprehensions can be highly rational and can be a combination of challenging job responsibilities and a lack of experience and know-how. On the other, for many leaders, the fears can be far less rational. As their career advances, most will find irrational fears do not diminish, but rather their nature just changes.

So, what are the irrational and rational fears that leaders face? We discuss them below, along with some practical hints on how to overcome them.

Imposter syndrome

The most common fear experienced by talented and successful professionals is that they don’t see their accomplishments as direct evidence of their abilities. They start feeling that they don’t deserve their position and or status. Manysecretlyfear they will be exposed as a fraud. According to Sandeep Ravindran, nearly 70 percent of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of the impostor phenomenon at least once in their life. The expert of this domain, Dr. Valerie Young, has further classified it into five types, including the perfectionist and the expert. To overcome this fear, you must re-frame your negative thoughts into positive ones. Performex’s coaches often use mental contrasting, developed by Gabriele Oettingen, to help their participants overcome imposter syndrome.

Bad decisions

As a leader, you must make many decisions each day. It isn’t uncommon to have trepidation that your choices will go wrong. This fear leads managers to postpone choosing a course of action or live in fear until they can discern the outcome. To overcome this fear, remember that even the most celebrated managers make poor decisions, but survive and thrive. The thing that makes them successful is persistence to continue to press forward towards their goal. The best leaders realize a reasonably good decision, one that their team is fully committed to, will trump a great decision with no support, almost all the time. To further enhance your decision-making skills, consider an executive coach or attending a premier formal leadership development program.

Fear of failure

The leadership team, peers, and subordinates expect a manager to consistently deliver superior results. However, fear itself can stop a person from doing the very things that would allow him or her achieve their goals. Fear of failure can become chronic. To break the pattern, review undesirable outcomes to extract key learnings and lessons for the future. Develop the habits to think more positively. Whenever your internal dialogue shifts to criticizing yourself, challenge those negative thoughts. Reflect on whether the view is rational and accurate as an interested third party would do. Most often the negative thinking will not stand up to this scrutiny. Finally, recast big audacious problems as challenges to be enjoyed.


Personal growth and innovation occur when you take risks as a leader. To negate the fear of risk, research the subject/issue. The chances of failing are minimized with more abundant and quality information. Mary Kuentz, the noted coach and thought leader, says “Confidence is built through action, not waiting.” At Performex, our coaches and our facilitators emphasize the need to take “baby steps” forward, no matter how small the actions are, rather than getting stuck hoping the risk will somehow mitigate over time. Baby steps create progress and yield momentum and confidence to continue to move forward.

Being unequipped to handle a new and complex leadership position

Probably the worst fear of managers is the rational knowledge that they are not prepared for their job. The problem is, most of the essential skills and behaviors managers need to be successful don’t come through training alone. Learning from your mistakes is useful but often slow and costly. Connect with the team at Performex to get yourself or your managers prepared to tackle difficult leadership assignments. They hold high impact open-enrollment workshops for executive leadership development in Atlanta, GA and in-house workshops for Leadership and Managerial Courage. Performex also provides coaching and instructional design as needed elsewhere. Get the entire details of their programs here:



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