Top Five Reasons People Fear Being A Leader – Debunked

Leadership Quote

Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City, has a brief, concise, but for many a frightening, definition of Leadership – “I’m responsible.”

The root of all leadership summarized in two words and five syllables.

It really makes you stop and think about what you are getting into if you choose to be a Leader.

Of Facts and Fears

All of us have fears that we’ve developed over the years.  Some are well founded in facts like touching a hot stove, or getting cut on broken glass.

Others are due to a lack of understanding like children being afraid of monsters under their bed.

This is one of the benefits and at the same time detriments to the human condition:  the more experience we have, the more we think there is to fear.

This is a good thing when it protects us from making harmful mistakes; it is a bad thing when it prevents us from achieving success to our full capability:

Accepting the responsibility of leadership is one of those fears that some have developed over their years of experience.  There are five top reasons some fear to be a leader.  Each one can derail a promising leader if they let it stop them from learning and growing and becoming all they can be.

The Top Five Reasons People Fear Being a Leader – Debunked

1) I Am Afraid To Fail

The Fear:

There are many examples in history and in recent times of leaders failing.  It may even be your own boss or the company you work for that failed.  If you are going to be a leader, you want to be successful; but you think the risk of failure is just too great to try.

The Truth:

You won’t succeed every time you try. But like all our modern day sports stars, you are guaranteed to finish last if you never get up to the line of scrimmage, or on the court, or in the batter’s box. To get a chance to win, you have to take the chance to lose.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try.”

 Let’s look at a few statistics from the world of sports:

  • The greatest football quarterbacks complete only six of ten passes.
  • The best basketball players make only half of their shots.
  • In baseball if you can get a hit more than three out of ten times at bat you’ll be in the hall of fame.

UCLA College Basketball coach John Wooden said:

 “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.  I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

 2) I Have Failed Before


You may believe that because you have failed before, you are a failure.  Since you made a mistake, you don’t deserve the chance to try again.


If you have failed before, congratulations, you are in good company.  Failure is not the end of the road, it is just a step on the way to success.  The truly successful person believes they are never down; they are either up, or getting up.

 Abraham Lincoln failed at many of his endeavors until he became the President of the United States.  What did Lincoln think of failures?

 “My great concern is not whether you have failed,  but whether you are content with your failure.”

Thomas Edison, the holder of 1,093 United States patents and the inventor of the phonograph and the incandescent light bulb said:

I have not failed.  I‘ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

 3) I Am Not A Born Leader


We all know larger than life leaders.  They are frequently on television, the internet, and newspapers.  We have studied them in the history books.  They are the Presidents, CEOs, Head Coaches, and Generals that command our attention.  If you are not just like these leaders, then you must not be meant to lead.


No one is a born leader. But in the same way neither is anyone a born pilot, or farmer, or scientist, or teacher, or anything else for that matter other than a human being.  However, everyone is born with a personality and abilities that can be developed into greatness.  Anyone can be a leader if they know where their natural strengths lie and use them to lead.

“No one is born as a leader, but everyone is born to lead.”

Donald O. Clifton the former board chair of Gallup and author of four books on strength based leadership: Soar with Your Strengths, Now, Discover Your Strengths, StrengthsQuest, and How Full Is your Bucket? said this:

“A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths — and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.”

 4) I Don’t Know Enough About Leadership


You have the desire to be a leader, but don’t think you have the knowledge. There is so much you don’t know and it takes so much time to learn everything.  It seems the best leaders have been doing this for many years.  You believe that you can’t step out and be a leader until you know all there is to know.


You don’t have to know everything about leadership to lead. You just have to know a little more than the people you are leading. (Click here to tweet that)

I heard this funny story that demonstrates this point well.  You don’t have to be the fastest person in the world to win races; you only need to run faster than the people behind you in each race.

Two guys were hiking in the deep woods one day. They got a bit off track and wandered into the part of the woods were bears have been known to live. The frightening sound of a bear was heard.  One of the guys bent down and started tightening his shoes. “What are you doing?” the other one asked. “Lacing up my shoes so I don’t trip when I run,” the first one answered. “Everyone knows you can’t out run a bear,” the second one said. To that the first guy replied, “I don’t have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you,” and he sped away.

5) I Don’t Know Everything My Team Does


You may believe that you can’t lead a team unless you have a mastery of every aspect of what your team does.


You don’t need to be the best at everything to be a leader; you just need to be the best at leading.

International Leadership Guru John Maxwell says it this way:

“Some people believe that great leaders have all the answers. Not true. Successful leaders don’t know everything. But they know people who do.  If you ask me a question related to one of my organizations and I don’t know the answer, I know which person in the organization does.  If you ask about my profession, I may not know the answer, but with a phone call or two, I can talk to someone who can answer the question.  And if you ask about the details of my life and schedule and I don’t know the answer, I guarantee you there’s someone who does – my assistant.”


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker, and Writer
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5 responses to “Top Five Reasons People Fear Being A Leader – Debunked

  1. The publics perception of C.E.Os’ is that they are over paid fat cats,so income saleries should be based on profits to their shareholders.Many C.E.O.s must get their act together or sent packing,


  2. Patrick, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I believe that all leaders are responsible for their results. You say that public perception is CEO’s are overpaid. What is your opinion, and can you refer us to any particular examples so we can discuss the facts?


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