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“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”
Henry Ford

David Fuller

Take a look at most leaders and you’ll think that they have it all together. When they’re facing outward, many portray a sense of vision, assurance, and perhaps confidence that leads others to fall in behind them and pull together to create an organization that fulfils its mission and creates value for its stakeholders.

The stakeholders are usually the clients or customers, bankers, partners, investors and employees, to name just a few. Yet like you and I, leaders can live on the edge of failure. This is often stressful, and the internalized fears can have a significant effect on the health of leaders and entrepreneurs.

Fear of failure

Failing in our business after putting in so much time, energy and money can make us lose face. We’ve probably been putting on a brave face all the while, knowing things aren’t always going well.

We’re afraid of failing our family, who believe in us, and not being able to bring home the bread.

We might be afraid to fail because we will disappoint our employees and customers. I even worked with a business owner who was afraid to fail because she would let down the previous owner who sold her the business – for too high of a price, I might add.

Fear of losing control

Business owners don’t want to lose control and, as a result, end up micromanaging their businesses.

“No one can do it as well as I can” is often heard in the small business environment.

However, it’s precisely this fear of losing control that holds business owners back. Only once you overcome this fear and start delegating tasks can you move your business forward.

More advice on running your business

Successful owners hire people who are better than them and let these people do the job they were hired for.

Fear of not knowing what to do next

We own a business or lead an organization, so we think we should know everything. But this is impossible.

Often business owners are great at the technical aspects of the business and end up faking the other stuff. Don’t be afraid to get help in areas where you don’t have the expertise.

To know what to do next, we often need to slow down, not rush our decisions but at the same time refuse to be conquered by inaction.

Feeling fearful and overwhelmed is often a symptom of not having plans in place and following those plans.

Fear of success

You might think this is impossible, but some leaders don’t believe they can be successful and have told me they’re afraid that if they’re successful, something may be out of their control.

In some cases, this relates to upbringing and being discouraged or doubted by others, including family members or staff.

Often as leaders, we fail to recognize that we’re successful. By celebrating successes, recognizing what you’ve done well, and having achievable goals, you can overcome this fear.

Fear of being thought of as crazy

You’re stepping out on a limb by taking on a business venture or initiating a different strategy for your organization. Some people will think the risk is incredible and you’re crazy for doing it.

Pay no heed to the naysayers unless they have experience in what you’re doing. But listen closely to good advice.

Avoid those with little else left to do than bring down those leaders like yourself who can see bigger things. It’s the big dreamers like you who turn those dreams into action to make change in the world.

Fear of thinking big

This can be related to some of the other fears, which all can be related to our upbringing or our life’s history. However, thinking big can be scary but necessary for small business owners.

Unless you can think out of the box and try new things, you will be stuck forever with small profits and a struggling business.

Think and dream big regularly, and move yourself and your organization forward with incremental steps until it grows as big as your dreams.

Don’t limit your business. Make it so you and your business are opportunity seekers.

Lack of business knowledge

As a business coach, I regularly work with leaders who haven’t reached their full potential because of self-limiting factors.

Sometimes it’s simply the lack of knowledge on how to grow their businesses, increase sales, or, more importantly, make their business profitable.

Often the leaders don’t have systems, good marketing practices or financial systems in place that enable them to succeed.

It’s hard to measure what you don’t understand. If this is holding your business back, take some courses or get someone to help you with this area of your business so you can become more successful.

The fact that you’re reading this proves you’re committed to increasing your knowledge of business, which will lead to your success.

Don’t be afraid. To truly be successful, leaders like you and I need to determine what’s causing us fear and determine whether that fear is holding us back or pushing us forward.

By understanding the drivers and the psychological barriers to our success and working on those, we can truly achieve things thought impossible by others.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Dale Carnegie

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc. For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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