Trap 7: Fear of Failure
What’s the Trap?
Leaders who are determined to succeed can fall into the trap of constantly playing safe, to eliminate risk of failure. They may turn down new ideas or avoid taking action because they are scared of making mistakes. They shy away from experimentation, staying in their comfort zone. They often regret past failures and view them as letdowns, serious personal flaws, or catastrophes.
These types of leaders keep their cards close to their chest and don’t often share their emotions, thoughts, or feelings with others. They prefer to give the impression that everything is okay and under control rather than share a personal upheaval or sense of failure. “What would people think if they knew the truth about me?” keeps these leaders disconnected from others. Getting past old failures and taking on new risks is extremely difficult for fear that past mistakes will occur once again.
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What’s the Impact: At Work?
- The leader doesn’t leverage opportunities as readily
- They stay conservative, limiting their growth potential, and that of their team
- Team members also become frightened to take action
- They risk losing their competitive edge
What’s the Impact: At Home?
- This type of leader keeps past failures a tight secret from family members for fear it will negatively impact
their view of him/her.
- Close friendships are far and few between
- They often feel isolated and have the need to carry any type of burden on their own
- They are not particularly spontaneous – these leaders need time to plan things out and imagine every scenario
Greg was a steady performer, but it wasn’t always this way. In university he failed his final certification exam three times and felt terrible shame ever since. He cringed at the thought of others ever finding out – what would they think about him if they knew?
Greg was an accountant and ran a moderately successful firm. His clients appreciated his sincerity, but he was conscientious about keeping an arms-length relationship. He felt it was important to keep up the image of success without sharing too much. He thought about dramatically expanding his sales and marketing but was uncomfortable about taking the risk. He didn’t want to incur the expense without being 100% sure that it would bring back a return on his investment. Failure is something that he did not want to experience again. He was at a standstill, living a ho-hum life. He knew that something had to change, but was terrified to take any kind of action.
What's the Solution?
Extraordinary leaders recognize that each failure brings them closer to success. Their defeats don’t discourage them, instead, they find a way to leverage their failures and turn them into opportunities. Truly remarkable leaders a high degree of emotional intelligence: the ability to bounce back from adversity with speed and resilience. They don’t let their setbacks define them, and they certainly don’t fear future failures. In fact, they invest quite a bit of time extracting important lessons from their failures and figure out a way to turn it into an advantage.
These types of leaders are not afraid to take risks. Before leaders take action that may lead to undesirable outcomes, they say to themselves, “If I fail, here’s what I will do to recover.” Once they envision the recovery, the risk seems smaller and more manageable.
On a personal level, these leaders are humble and non-judgmental. They surround themselves with individuals who have lived a life filled with rich experiences – both successful and not so successful. Their intention is to learn from everything, and use it to connect with others on every level.
Are you trapped?
Find out what's keeping you from becoming an extraordinary leader. Start by answering these questions...