Fear and Failure-The Emotional Constraints of Leaders


As a leader we can be the driver of the emotional constraints not only of our employees, but also ourselves. Which type of emotional constraints affect you most in your teams? Fear of being criticized? Fear of making a mistake and looking foolish? Avoiding conflict in group discussions even when you know your idea is good? Or just feeling unsure of the value in your idea?

This comes into play in response to our ego over-riding our creativity, or our inner drive. To put ourselves out there places us in a position to be criticized. Criticism feels bad. All of this will place constraints on your effectiveness as a leader.

We are all afraid of making mistakes. The problem comes when we greatly exaggerate in our minds the result of making a mistake. We anticipate that making a mistake will bring far more disastrous results than it actually has the capacity to. So we tend to do nothing. We play it safe and our progress suffers. The other thing we do out of fear is avoid conflict, especially in groups. In groups we all want to be valued. Well how do we do this? How do we add value without creating emotional constraints?

We can add value to the group several ways. We can help the group by bringing new and innovative ideas and resources to the group. We can share current and relevant information with the group. We can also add value by stopping the group from making bad decisions. One happenstance when we proactively lead groups, is in the unforeseen and often unintended consequences as we engage to add value.

When we lead the group to a solution, although good, we may stop others’ solutions. When we bring our own new and innovative resources we may give the impression that we believe ours is better. When we stop the group from a potentially fatal team decision it can be interpreted as “we know the best solution”. We may drown others out and paralyze the groups motivation.

So how do we overcome the emotional constraints? One way is to create a safe place, we support a psychologically safe environment. Ideas evolve from “your” ideas to “our” ideas. This is easily done in a mind-mapping session. Mind mapping, or brainstorming as we all know it, engages the whole team and generates lots of ideas. The more the better! One great team building exercise is to have your team spend 5 minutes generating a list of things you can do with a paperclip. We tend to look at a paperclip serving only one function. I have seen list of more than 100 ideas of things you can do with a paperclip. This exercise gets us to think outside of the box, and begins to create a safe place for others to share new and innovative ideas without fear. Try it as a prelude to your next mind-mapping session.


  1. Reblogged this on Live Love Learn Laugh Lead and commented:

    Ho wdo we avoid the emotional constraints of leadership?



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