Fear Of Failure 6363fa3e9ab7e

Fear of failure can stop you from becoming a successful leader

Nov. 3, 2022
Tom Moriarty explores how to use confidence to conquer fear.

Many of you know that I am an avid golfer. I have never played well enough to be considered in in the top echelon in the sport, but I have a respectable game. One thing that I do about my game is constantly work on it and try to improve. I read books from experts, watch videos of golf instructors, and spend time on the practice range.

Some of the books I’ve read include Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, Jack Nicklaus’s Golf My Way, and Bob Rotella’s Golf is Not a Game of Perfect

Recently, I read a book that was published in 2005 by Dr. Gio Valiante called Fearless Golf. There were many passages in the book that I found interesting and helpful. One passage struck me as particularly interesting because it made me think of leadership. He wrote:

“If fear is the great enemy, its undefeated conqueror is confidence. Confidence does not ignore fear, it overcomes fear. Confidence starts with knowledge, understanding and accomplishment. As skill develops, so too does the potential for confidence. Each time we move past fear, we increase the likelihood for success. Confidence strengthens our resolve, even when success is not immediate. Confidence builds on itself, each new experience is fueled by the last and then goes on to fuel the next.”

This passage struck me as something meaningful for people that are contemplating making the journey to become a leader, or for those already in leadership positions looking to improve. It can apply to anyone learning anything new. 

We all have at some level a fear of making mistakes. Many men and women would make great leaders. But they may have self-doubt. They may be concerned that they might fail. Those already in leadership positions can also have doubts about making a wrong decision, learning a new task or taking on a new responsibility. Maybe they feel they aren’t the best person for the position. 

As background, consider McClelland’s Needs Theory. The theory states that people have three needs:

  1. The need for affiliation; having social interaction and friendships. 
  2. The need for achievement; being good at something and being recognized for it. 
  3. The need for power; being in charge. 

Everyone has needs in each of these three area. But most people have one dominant need among the three. People with a need for affiliation may shy away from leadership positions. They may feel that learning new things or taking on more responsibilities may upset their social network. They may have to correct or have difficult conversations with former peers. Friendships are very important to those with a dominant need for affiliation to risk them. 

Those with a need for achievement may feel like it’s ‘a bridge too far.’ They feel that they have mastered their current level and are now recognized experts. Achievement oriented people may feel they need more time and experience before they attempt a new level of responsibility. If they try and fail it will set them back and diminish their sense of achievement. 

We tend to not worry about those who have a need for power. They forge ahead. If they lack capabilities, they will fake it ‘til they make it. If they don’t know something, they will learn it. Power-driven people tend to have confidence and are not fearful. 

Whatever your hesitation is, you can overcome that fear by accumulating experiences that reduce your fear. The same goes for a current leader that is trying to develop someone toprepare them for greater responsibilities. 

Arrange experiences that will increase knowledge, feeling of success, and confidence. Set some goals for yourself. Venture out and try something new. Make it ‘bite-sized.’ That way if you fail, it won’t damage your friendships nor your ability to demonstrate positive achievements. “Confidence builds on itself, each new experience is fueled by the last and then goes on to fuel the next.” 

With each win your confidence grows. More and more little steps will raise your confidence to the point that you know you can take that on greater responsibilities. Or, that you can learn how to perform a process or procedure that demonstrates your higher skill level or greater knowledge. As confidence improves, your willingness try something new is increased. 

Most organizations and the people in them do better when there is upward mobility. This only happens when people see a path for bigger and better things. Go forth and do great things.

This story originally appeared in the November/December 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/alidade-mer.

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