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Afraid to Be a Leader?


Afraid to Be a Leader?It's happening again. I'm witnessing a new "leader" become ineffective and the senior team's confidence in him is starting to lag. The leader is losing his effectiveness even though he's already implemented several much needed programs for the organization. He's losing his effectiveness because he's afraid to do one of the toughest things required of a leader: he's afraid to hold a key staff member accountable to do her job efficiently, accurately, and professionally.

It's sad to say, but he's not the first leader in this organization to lose his effectiveness because of this problem. The previous four leaders have not held her accountable either. Why?

They've all been afraid. They're afraid of the conversations they envision they'll have with her. They envision conflicts, arguments, debates, and even the dreaded possibility of tears. Oh No! So instead of dealing with all of that; they don't. Now her poor performance has become what she views as normal and acceptable.

Who's to blame?

It's pretty obvious. It's the fault of every one of the former leaders and now the current leader. It's their fault for being afraid of conversations that haven't even happened yet. It's their fault for anticipating "ugly" conversations instead of anticipating objective, focused, and professional conversations on needed performance changes. It's their fault for not being willing to start the much needed conversations with her. It's their fault for not helping her to clearly see the discrepancies in what is and is not acceptable and why some on the team are frustrated with her. It's their fault for being afraid. It's their fault for not doing what is right for the organization.

In his book, Who Moved My Cheese?, Dr. Spencer Johnson shares a terrific question one of the book's characters asked himself when faced with a frightening challenge. His question was: "What would I do if I weren't afraid?" If you're like me, the answer to that question is usually, "I'd do the tough thing facing me."

If you're a leader with potentially difficult conversations and situations facing you and you are somewhat afraid of dealing with them, what would you do -- for the good of the organization -- if you weren't afraid?


Copyright MMVII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.


Liz Weber CMCLiz Weber, CMC CSP

Liz Weber coaches, consults, and trains leadership teams. She specializes in strategic and succession planning, and leadership development.

Liz is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold both the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designations.

Contact Liz’s office at +1.717.597.8890 for more info on how Liz can help you, or click here to have Liz’s office contact you.

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7 thoughts on “Afraid to Be a Leader?”

  1. Alan Kay says:

    Interesting point about a leader who's fearful! Especially when it's driven by fear of one individual. It reminds us that leadership development must include the ability to have fierce conversations when they are required. Fierce conversations can be an outcomes-driven process, not just an attitude.

    The one thing I have seen work is where a new leader had a #2 who was a self-confessed intimidator with an iron-clad contract. The leader learned to contain the #2 in the areas where they performed poorly (people!) and leveraged the one skill the individual did have, i.e., contract negotiations.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      It's all about reading people and leveraging their strengths. Thanks Alan!

  2. Celine Horan says:

    It sounds to me your gentleman has a case of preservationitis.

    To quote Jim Rohn:

    “Self-preservation has a tendency to lead to poverty.”

    Your article reveals just how quickly poverty can seep into one's career.

    If the “leader” is not willing to see the situation as an opportunity for growth, for both him and the lady in question, he was never a true leader in the first place. Because a true leader is a planner.

    True leaders know these types of conversations come with the territory and plan ahead how they want their conversations to go. They plan how they will conduct themselves, never giving in to fear they keep the big picture firmly fixed in their minds.

    Your leader could invite a colleague into the meeting to ensure things stay on course. Because after all, he is not responsible for how the lady reacts (as he perceives it) but he is responsible for how he conducts himself.

    “We must risk going too far to discover just how far we can go.” Jim Rohn

    This is how I have conducted myself and grown a great deal because of it.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Beautifully stated Celine. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and the wise words of Jim Rohn! I love your comment: "...he is not responsible for how the lady reacts (as he perceives it) but he is responsible for how he conducts himself." Oh so true.... Thanks again Celine. L

      1. Celine Horan says:

        You're welcome Liz. Celine :-))

  3. This is such an important moment -- "afraid to hold a key staff member accountable". I see often too. Six figure salaries and they "let it go" over and over again. The other side of this can be so rewarding and it can be learned! Until the will is to learn the vital skill many will remain stuck. I see this fear of being a leader in health care a lot.

    1. Liz Weber says:

      Couldn't agree more Linda! Thanks for commenting Linda.

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Posted by Liz Weber CMC on March 27, 2012 in Leadership Development and tagged , , , ,