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CEOs, like anyone else, have fears, and because of the importance of their role these fears can have a profound impact on the organisation and the people in it. This makes it vital they understand and acknowledge their fears so they can work on them.

Imposter Syndrome – according to surveys, over 70% of people have felt this at some point, but for CEOs, it can be paralysing. This sense of feeling that you’re not measuring up to what others expect of you can lead to poor decisions and other bad leadership traits. Recognising it, managing your anxieties, often with a coach, can ensure your stay on track.

Looking Foolish – many CEOs believe that leaders must be invincible, or at least seen to be so. Their ego simply doesn’t allow them to be seen as making mistakes, whether by their staff or their board / shareholders. It’s vital that CEOs have the humility to recognise that they are only human, like everyone else, and that showing vulnerability at times will enhance, rather than diminish, their reputation.

Wrong Decisions – we all make bad decisions from time to time, and CEOs are no exception. The secret here is to recognise when a decision is wrong, and to then do something about it – changing direction as necessary. This fear is very much tied up with the previous two, Imposter Syndrome and Looking Foolish.

It also often leads to ‘Analysis Paralysis’ where the CEO delays making a decision, in case it’s wrong, by calling for more and more information. It’s vital that one doesn’t get into this loop, but to make a decision and move forward. To recognise that you can never have all the information as things change and evolve constantly, and know the direction can be changed if necessary.

As an aside, Jocko Willink, author, podcaster and retired US Navy SEAL, suggests making more frequent, smaller decisions to overcome the fear sometimes associated with big, bad decisions – even SEALs feel fear.

The fourth fear often encountered is that of Changing Economic Conditions and Unforeseen Risk. One thing is certain – the future will not be what you expect, or budget for. This is really where a well-constructed board and/or coach can be invaluable, working with the CEO on scenario planning. It’s then important to look at the different scenarios, rate them for both risk and impact, and have at least outline plans in place. If you’re aware of, and somewhat ready for, the worst-case, it’s a lot less frightening than being caught by surprise.

Related to all of these is the Fear of Failing. In fact, according to Norwest Venture Partners’ 2018 CEO Journey Study, fully 90% of CEOs admit that fear of failure is more pressing than any other concern. Fear of failure can, in fact, lead to an executive not taking any risks and therefore failing to reach their potential – exacerbating the problem, in fact. What CEOs need to bear in mind is that failure is a part of life and, generally, a necessity on the path to success.

The final one of these 6 fears is that of Not Motivating Staff. This is made even more pressing with so many companies operating with remote workforces. Poor morale leads to low performance and higher staff turnover – so negatively affecting performance and driving many of the other fears, too.

In the February 2021 WSJ/Vistage Small Business CEO survey, just over 47% of CEOs reported being very to extremely concerned by employee morale, as against around 34% being concerned about their own morale. CEOs need to ensure they have ongoing feedback loops with their staff and open dialogue. In fact, unapproachable management and poor communication are the top 2 reasons for people to look for other jobs.

The secret is to recognise your fears and to see them as a way to grow and become an even better and more successful leader than you already are.


#BusinessFitness #Leadership #Fear #Motivation #JobSatisfaction #Management #Coach #WorkingFromHome


Some of my recent posts that might assist with further input on these issues include:

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