The Fearless CEO is a Myth by Kurt Wilkin - HireBetter

The Fearless CEO is a Myth

Kurt Wilkin

The fearless CEO doesn’t exist. In fact, among the things that CEOs have in abundance are fears. Fears in all shapes and sizes, including: Fear that the economy will tank, fear that they aren’t deserving of their position, fear that they’re failing their people, fear that the business will go under, or fear that they will be discovered as frauds, are a few examples.

It’s a heavy burden to bear, a cross that is sometimes too heavy to carry alone. We believe these feelings are unique to us as CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs. As such, we believe there’s no one to unload our concerns on, so these lone scared warriors trudge on alone.

According to a recent Vistage article, The 6 biggest fears of CEOs, CEO fears are common because every human feels fear, but CEO fears loom larger and the weight of decisions, reputation, and an organization full of talented people rests on their shoulders.

The Vistage article highlights six of the biggest fears CEOs will face, all of which I can attest to. For me, the three that resonated the most were:


Fear of being an impostor

Forbes defines Impostor syndrome as a syndrome associated with behaviors like perfectionism and overworking. While these are excellent characteristics to be a high achiever, it can be unrealistic and costly.

The article explains that CEOs who feel like frauds are not alone. More than 70 percent of people have experienced impostor syndrome – including me at times!

Feelings of not being good enough often creep in as many of us feel like we don’t deserve some of our accomplishments.

Fear of failing

We don’t let you see this side very often, but behind closed doors, CEOs often impose very high expectations on themselves, and they would never forgive themselves if they made a mistake.

Many CEOs expect to hit the bullseye 110% of the time. But you are doing yourselves a disservice because nothing and nobody is perfect. Everything has the potential to fail.

There must be a fundamental change in approaching failure because failure is a big part of growth. Failure is always a possibility but this does not mean you shouldn’t make moves or take risks. The real failure happens when you don’t take risks – or don’t take action.

Fear of the wrong decision

This is a very valid and common fear because people expect CEOs to know what the best decision is and CEOs put pressure on themselves to come up with decisions themselves.

Vistage interviewed retired U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who’s earned the highest levels of recognition for leadership. Willink suggested that fear of bad choices can be eliminated by opting for more frequent, smaller decisions.

“Because these decisions were smaller, I could make them faster—and they had less inherent risk.”


You don’t need to be a Fearless CEO

There’s no such thing as a fearless executive. But a healthy dose of fear is empowering and can lead to productivity. It can also keep you focused on your goals.

It’s important that CEOs seek out trusted advisors, coaches, and mentors as part of their support team. Someone to talk to in order to help you keep your sanity intact, especially when the pressure builds up and is too much to bear.

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