Leadership and the fear of failure

I have been told by a few of my professors in the MBA program at UNR that one thing great leaders share is a fear of failure. What I am wondering is to what degree is this fear healthy? My son Sam (13) is so terrified of failure that he rarely attempts anything new, which can’t be a good thing.  Failure is not something I relish but I feel it best to suck it up and deal with it.

Tonight is a glaring example of how fear almost blinded me during my first exam in Finance. Two weeks ago, my family suffered a tragedy with the loss of my father in law Mark and as a result I missed one of my scheduled classes.  I just spent the past week flat on my back with the flu and didn’t study one bit then either. Needless to say, I was completely panicked when I realized that I had an exam tonight.

After cramming all day, I knew it was a hopeless cause. so left begrudgingly for class.  As soon as I took my seat, I felt a trickle of sweat form on my brow and I took in a deep breath.  The words seemed to fall off the page and I completely forgot everything I knew or didn’t know in that instant.

Why does this encounter make me think of leadership? Maybe because I believe that a leader at times feels pressure to undergo tasks she may not be ready for. She may be seized up with anguish over an upcoming presentation or a report that will be critiqued. What makes her a leader is her ability to overcome these and other obstacles and move past them.

It is OK to have a fear of the unknown. It is OK to screw up and fall down. It is OK to freak out internally when you know you didn’t prepare yourself fully for what lies ahead. Own your fear, embrace it, and you will be better off for it.



4 thoughts on “Leadership and the fear of failure

  1. Imran says:

    It was a nice read because I do share this “fear” as well. You mentioned the case when you were not that much prepared for the exam. But I can recollect it when I was the most prepared in the class but still confusion and fear made me attempt it just barely over average. So I think it is in the genes…


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