GUT CHECK: Can You Confront Your Insecurities?

February 14, 2014 Vince Molinaro

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Let’s face it, we’ve all been there as leaders – moments when we feel insecure. Maybe we’re facing a big challenge that has you questioning your ability to succeed. Maybe intense scrutiny is making you to second-guess yourself.

Whatever the reason, most leaders get that sense of insecurity from time to time. When it’s momentary or fleeting, it’s usually not a big deal. But when it lingers and starts getting the best of you, it can undermine your success.

Traditionally, we have demanded that our leaders act and appear at all times like invulnerable, infallible super heroes. That discourages many leaders from confronting their insecurities. Unfortunately, when we duck and run from our insecurities, we rarely master and overcome them. When insecurity is not addressed, drama usually ensues. Many leaders build up their egos to compensate for a low sense of self-worth.

I worked with a new CEO of a technology company who lived under a constant, suffocating pressure to prove himself. Unfortunately, when the stress of having to always ‘be on’ built up, he would unravel in very unpleasant ways. Eventually his dramatic outbursts started driving away his best people.

The more I got to know him, the more I realized that the main problem was that he could not confront his insecurities. As a result, he never overcame them.

If you are even remotely concerned that you are stuck in the same situation, it’s time for a Gut Check.

Here are the top five telltale signs that your insecurities may be getting the best of you:

  1. You have a tendency to make others feel weak. You disempower them. You criticize people publically. You put the spotlight on others’ shortcomings to cover up for your own.
  2. You lack confidence which in turn makes you wishy-washy. You don’t take a stand on any issue. You avoid conflict and look for the easy way out.
  3. You start mistrusting everyone around you. You start micromanaging. You believe everyone has a hidden agenda.
  4. You cut yourself off from everyone else. Self-imposed pressure to be the hero leads you to think you are better off going-it on your own, rather that engaging others in meaningful ways.
  5. You never hire great talent because you fear they will make you look bad.

The key to overcoming insecurities begins by admitting that you have them. It’s not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength as a leader.

Second, connect with others. Talk to a trusted colleague, mentor or coach. Figure out where your insecurities come from and make a plan to overcome them.

Finally, learn to live with insecurity. Eric Fromm, German psychoanalyst once said that the task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity. The same is true for leaders.

This week’s Gut Check Question: Can you confront your own insecurities?

Follow me @VinceMolinaro

About the Author

Vince Molinaro

Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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