5 Fears Young Leaders Face

Starting out in leadership can be very scary. There’s so many great leaders out there. And you think of yourself as not one.

The intimidation is fierce.

Don’t worry though. Every leader faces fears. Even seasoned veterans.

We’ll discuss 5 fears every young leader faces today.

Fear is the path to the dark side, YODA

Image by JD Hancock

Even after years of being a leader, I still face fears. Some of them are fears I faced when I started out.

The fear isn’t pleasant. It’ll often hold you back from leading well.

That’s why we’ve got to be willing to man up and realize the fear isn’t our own. Everyone feels it. Everyone deals with it. Not everyone survives the fear though.

Today’s post should help you get through fears you’ll commonly face. Especially when starting out in leadership.

Fear 1: The imposter syndrome fear – We all know of great leaders. We’ve tried to model ourselves after them and do what they’ve done.

Truth be told, this can bring on the imposter syndrome fear.

This fear rears its ugly head when we feel that we’re an imposter. When we feel we don’t know what we’re talking. When we feel we’re fakes.

Be on guard against this fear. It’s easily one of the most crushing fears we can face.

Realize that we’ve all been mentored by other leaders. They’re part of us. The knowledge they’ve poured into us should be shared.

While you may be similar to another leader, you bring something unique to the table. Find it. Embrace it. Share it.

Fear 2: The screw-up fear – You want to share great advice. You want to help people move to the next level. You want to do what’s right.

But what happens when someone takes the advice you’ve given and twists it to suit their own desires?

I’ve faced this fear many times.

One time I shared about the need for change and someone decided this meant they needed to make a choice that went against my beliefs. This shook me to the core.

I wondered how I could have screwed up so badly and put someone’s life on the wrong course. It was my fault, I told myself. I questioned whether or not I wanted to continue leading.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion people will draw their own conclusions from what I share and there’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is give the best advice I can and let others deal with their own conscious.

Don’t let the fear of screwing up curb your leadership. Know people will make decisions. Some good, some bad. It’s their life and they’re in control of it.

Fear 3: The I don’t have enough knowledge fear – You’re young. I know that. You know that. And so do the ones you’ll be leading.

Those you’re leading may even think you don’t have enough experience or knowledge to lead.

We can’t let our lack of knowledge, or the fear of it, stop us from leading.

When this fear comes upon you, remind yourself of the things you do know. The courses you’ve passed. The leadership trials you’ve gone through and overcome.

Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you don’t bring knowledge to the table. This knowledge may be different or not fully formed yet but you have it.

Develop and nurture the knowledge you need to be a great leader. You can do it.

Fear 4: The public speaking fear – Who doesn’t have this fear? Standing in front of an audience is a daunting feat.

For me, it’s still a fear I struggle with. I hate standing on the platform and speaking a message. I’m terrified.

However, the more I speak publicly, the better I get at it.

This is how you overcome the fear of public speaking. By doing it.

Get out there and speak to small crowds. Speak to medium sized crowds. Speak to large crowds.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Eventually the fear will subside. The fear may never go away but you can beat it back.

Fear 5: The critic fear – There’s no denying it. We all want to be liked. We all want to find people who will encourage us.

Sadly, you won’t always get these encouragers. Sometimes you’ll face the critic.

And critics math just doesn’t add up. Jon Acuff puts it this way

1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.

Now that’s messed up, isn’t it? We can allow one critic to destroy any positive encouragement we may have received.

You’ll always have critics. You’ll always have fans.

Learn who to listen to (Your fans) and who to dismiss (Your critics).

Guys, come on.

Don’t let your fears destroy your ability to lead. Don’t let fear destroy the message you have within you. Don’t let fear rob you of the joy of helping others.

Know you’re in good company. I have fears. Michael Hyatt has fears. Your parents have fears.

Look the fear in the face and tell it no more.

Question: How have you overcome fear in your life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nick

    I have started to overcome fear by telling myself a different story. One recent example is that I needed a leader above me to start working more openly with me. That would only happen if we developed better communication from understanding each other. However, I kept telling myself that she wouldn’t like the ideas I had and that she wanted all the responsibility and power of being a leader over me. It generated great fear in me. Finally, I changed the story I was playing in my head and approached her. Turns out, she’s been wanting the same thing I’ve been wanting and now we’re working so much better as a team. Telling yourself a different story is one way I overcome fear.

    • That’s an awesome story Nick! I love how you took a negative looking situation and turned it into a positive. Heck, if you ever want to write a guest post about the situation and how leaders work like that, I’d love to feature it.

  • Yep, I think you captured it! I used to shake in my boots when I had to speak in front of crowds. But like you said, do it and repeat. This has given me great confidence!

    • Nice Paul! I’m glad you’ve found repetition to be valuable to overcoming your fear!

  • I remember the first time I applied for a manager’s position in the bank I worked for, I was denied the opportunity because I did not have a four year college degree. A few months later, another bank hired me as a manager: however, I carried that nasty impostor syndrome with me for years. “I shouldn’t be in this position – I don’t have a degree – they’re going to find out their mistakes, yada yada yada” Surprising how destructive those little voices can be.

    The voices went away after I began recognizing my successes and years later I got the degree, but I sure remember the power of Impostor syndrome during those early years.

    • I’m glad you were able to overcome those voices Bill. It’s surprising how much fear they can instill in our lives.

  • Nice post. Love your thoughts on speaking. I would add:

    * Speak / Evaluate & Learn / Repeat

    Keep leading and serving!

    • Thanks Kent. Those sound like solid strategies to use as well. Is that how you became such a great speaker?

      • Thanks for saying I’m a good speaker. I appreciate it.

        Not sure that’s the only secret, but it sure has helped.

  • Courage and Perspective. You need courage to face your fears, and you need perspective to understand if it’s really worth fearing in the first place.

  • for me, overcoming fear has started on focusing on what I can do right now, and then throwing everything into it.

    • Great way to push through the fear Jon. When we know what’s ahead of us, it’s much easier to see it’s possible to get through. Looking for great things from you!

    • I like that and I’m borrow that 🙂

  • Ron Mercer

    I really enjoy your posts. You are doing a great job! Keep it up!

    • Thanks Ron! I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts. What’s one thing I could help you with?

  • Great post Joe, you hit some key points. To get over most of my fear I focus on my why and remember that most of the time this isn’t about me.

    • Our whys are important and you’ve found a fantastic one Kimanzi. I know it resonates with you and pushes you to be better. Keep pushing through the fear.

  • “1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.”

    It’s as if many people wants a streak of compliments. The problem with always having compliments is we might have an unbalanced perception of ourself.

    Sometimes an insult or criticism can help us grow more than receiving hundreds of compliments.

    • That’s true Wan. Sometimes we are seeking the compliments. But that’s not what I meant with that quote.

      • Yeah, I know.

        Just giving a thought of mine because it’s something that bothers me sometimes.

        When you said that we can allow one critic to destroy our any positive encouragements, it reminds me that sometimes we can be thin skinned when it comes to criticisms. Whenever people criticize, all the encouragements from people who believe in you and your ability to do great things suddenly dissolves as if the criticisms are acids. It is as if our value hinges on what people say to us rather than what our true worth is.

        The failure to put criticism into perspective can be a bad thing.

        • Thanks for the clarification Wan.

          • Haha no prob, Joe.

            I was the one afraid that you might feel I don’t get what you are trying to say in your post. So I apologize for that.

  • One more fear I had was the fear of being bullied into agreeing to take a position that I was not particularly comfortable with. Now that I think of it, it was more of the fear of rejection and victimized for sticking my neck out. For some time, it lead me down the path of mediocrity, just existing. However, I managed to overcome this with a lot of prayer and faith that I was better than some made me think I was. Now I can lead with authenticity 🙂

    • Glad you overcame that fear Kimunya. I can see how that would affect the lives of those who live in it.

  • kentsanders

    Really good insights, Joe. I have experienced all of this. My background is leading worship, and anyone who has been in church leadership has probably had more than their share of critics! (Especially music people, since everyone has a strong opinion about music!) This was really hard at the beginning, but I’m thankful that it helped me develop a thicker skin and not take criticism so personally. I also learned that often there is a nugget of truth contained within criticism.

    • Oh yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from. We have good friends who were music leaders and you’d hear all sorts of comments made about the music selection or the volume of the music. Overcoming the fear of criticism is a big one!

  • Fear is a natural emotion but we can’t allow it to prevent us from leading or striving to accoplish our dreams. We have to face fear with confidence and action. Great post!

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