Giving Fear a Seat At The Table

By Dr. Matt Brubaker and Dr. Foster Mobley

The most successful leaders we’ve worked with share several traits. But one may be surprising: their ability to recognize a personal fear that was fueling ineffective behavior, harness it and then lead for the better. In doing so, they took their successful careers to an entirely new level.

In this paper, we examine myths about such fears – myths that explain why leaders are reluctant to acknowledge them. We then examine the four most common fears we’ve seen in leaders, using the Enneagram model of personality types to explain them. We tell the stories of leaders who possessed each fear (but disguise their names and certain details so they can remain anonymous):

  • The fear of being wrong – being highly afraid to make mistakes and be shown as wrong, which can make them always unsatisfied task masters.
  • The fear of not being good enough – leaders who struggle with deep insecurities and continually having to prove their value, which erodes their colleagues’ ability to trust them.
  • The fear of missing out – of being deprived of certain experiences, which makes them impatient, impulsive and often self-destructive.
  • The fear of being victimized – these leaders fiercely protect themselves and others, but can be highly defensive and controlling.

After explaining and illustrating these fears, we explore the four steps that leaders took to acknowledge their previously unrecognized fears and dramatically change their behavior for the better – for themselves and their organizations.