Admitting you're afraid can be as frightening as admitting defeat.
On some level, I think we often confuse the two entirely. In fact, sometimes we feel that if we're afraid, we've already failed. We talk so often about fighting or facing our fears, and share memes about how we should do one thing every day that scares us. Admirable notions, but complicated by the feeling that we should be ashamed of being afraid.
As a team leader, you may find aspects of what you do intimidating, or overwhelming, or frightening. You may be bogged down by the responsibility of leading your group not just effectively but successfully, and in a way that others admire. This can leave you wondering how to be a team leader who excels, while dealing with things that might make your knees knock under your desk.
First things first. Start by assessing your own situation. I'll call these two steps "acknowledge" and "action":
- First, acknowledge. Ask yourself how you really feel about your leadership position. If you're afraid, that's ok! It really is. But until you acknowledge it, you can't deal with it. Some people relish every aspect of being a leader; some shine in some areas, and struggle with others. Everyone is different. Start by acknowledging where you fall.
- Next, it's time to take action. Get specific about some of your challenges. Do you find it difficult to maintain a feeling of goodwill on your team? Do you have a hard time delivering bad news, like job termination? (Not surprising.) Is your communication style leading to confusion, or last-minute panic? Try to make a list of things you'd like to work on.
Now, take that list and break it down:
- How many of these issues are internal? Perhaps you're dealing with self-worth issues, in general. Perhaps you were promoted very rapidly, or at very young age, and it's making you feel unsure about your abilities. Try and ask yourself if these are issues coming from YOU, or if they're being prompted by external factors.
If it turns out your struggling with yourself most of all, some Emotional Intelligence development might help. Building self-awareness about how you're interacting with your job can help you learn how to deal with yourself, which in turn will improve relations with your team. Because here's the thing — fear can make us take things out on those around us, or make us want to run and hide rather than lead.
Want to get to work now? Start here:
- Next, take a look at which (if any) external factors may come into play. Do you have a difficult team member? An intimidating superior? Do you struggle when delivering bad news, or answering questions "on the spot" in meetings? If this is the case, working on your communication skills will go a long way towards improving these interactions.
When you have a set of skills at your disposal, it can help you cope with those feelings of fear. You'll also be able to get closer with your team, connect with them in a clear fashion, and build relationships rather than struggle with them.
Ready to work on those communication skills? Try these:
Obviously, there's a lot of cross-over between internal and external factors, and EI development and communication skills improvement can help both. Feeling challenged (or even afraid) in the face of leadership isn't something to feel bad about. But if you want to be a leader who's admired and inspires, take steps to improve your skills and your team will stand up and take notice.