I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.
Dr. Brené Brown

Asserters are the rational, courageous and decisive leaders who have a high need for power and like to be in control. According to the late Harvard psychologist David McClelland, they are the engineers who build our skyscrapers, and the generals who fight and win our wars. At their best, they are charismatic and charming. Famous Asserters include Dr. Martin Luther King, Frank Sinatra, Jack Welch, Napoleon, and Serena Williams.

However, just like with achievement and affiliation, there is a dark side to power. Asserters have difficulty saying “I’m sorry” and asking for help. They are very uncomfortable letting their guard down and saying “I don’t know,” which often leads them to turn others off, and away, when they actually crave connection. Their Leadership Shadow is a “Fear of Betrayal,” which leads them to be controlling and skeptical under stress, and makes the very thought of being vulnerable painful, if not excruciating.

In the spirit of full disclosure and transparency, I am an Asserter. I know this style and dynamic very well – the good and the bad. In fact, it was my Asserter Style (my words, not his) that led the late Dr. Jerry Harvey to give me an “A” on my paper, but an “F” in life. The purpose of this blog is to examine the “Fear of Betrayal Leadership Shadow” and to offer an antidote for this dilemma: assurance.

Assurance is defined as a “confidence or certainty; vow, oath, pledge.” This is where highlighting the “Fear of Betrayal Leadership Shadow” can be tricky. While Asserters appear to have supreme confidence, deep down they often lack genuine, quiet conviction that comes from healthy self-esteem. As such, they often mask their fears and insecurity with supreme assertiveness, but underneath the bluster is insecurity and self-doubt.

Understanding the Origins of the Fear of Betrayal Leadership Shadow

Some Asserters often report feeling betrayed or out of control early in life. Other Asserters may have had a string of professional or personal (or both) wrongs or betrayals that cause them to be cautious and highly skeptical. The more betrayals we’ve experienced, the more we remain on “high alert,” which creates distance instead of connection. The bottom line is that the less predictable, loving and stable our past relationships have been, including those with parents, teachers, friends and lovers, the darker our “Fear of Betrayal Shadow” is likely to be.

Why Vulnerability Matters

Being vulnerable is critical because it allows us to connect with others in a genuine and authentic way. If we are unwilling to be vulnerable, we limit the quality of our relationships with others. Period.

It’s difficult to explore vulnerability without considering courage. The word “courage” comes from the Latin word “cor,” which means “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” Isn’t that powerful? When was the last time you stepped into vulnerability to tell your story with your whole heart? What would become possible for you if you lived and led with this degree of courage, and vulnerability?

Meeting and Managing Your Fear of Betrayal Shadow

  1. Confront your fear of vulnerability – This process starts with coming to grips with how uncomfortable it feels to let your guard down and be vulnerable. Take heart that you are not alone in this fear, and that you have the power to step into vulnerability and survive.
  2. Admit that it hurts to feel rejection, judgment or indifference – Acting like a negative response from another doesn’t bother you is counterproductive. It’s perfectly acceptable to “own” that feeling. But, resist the temptation to build up walls to protect yourself. Sadly we realize (often too late) that these barriers for protection have become the walls of our prison cell.
  3. Forgive others, and yourself – If you have a “Fear of Betrayal Shadow” it is because you have been wronged. However, you must make peace with the past and forgive (not condone) others, and yourself, so that you can move forward and step into your highest potential.
  4. Remove people from your life who cannot be trusted – You deserve better than putting up with others who betray your trust or act in bad faith. Clinging to these relationships will ultimately bring you down. Walk away.
  5. Practice – Getting comfortable with meeting your “Fear of Betrayal Shadow” is a process, and it takes practice. I can promise you that the more willing you are to experience vulnerability, the more comfortable you will become with it. This is not a one-and-done deal; take your time and give yourself permission to practice, and to be less than perfect.

When we face our “Fear of Betrayal Leadership Shadow” and embrace the fact that we can experience vulnerability without the world falling apart, we regain the control we so desperately crave. By developing the emotional resilience to experience vulnerability, we no longer feel the need to run away from or shut down our emotions.

A quote from Brené Brown set up this blog, and I think it appropriate to close with another quote from her. She states that “when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.” She reminds us that we cannot selectively “numb” the negative emotions – fear, anger, sadness, remorse – without numbing our entire being, including joy, love, happiness and gratitude. Cultivating a sense of assurance allows us to have a confident expectation in the outcome of experiencing vulnerability. And whether the outcome is a positive, receptive response, or rejection, we can quietly and peacefully know that it is better to have been true to ourselves and lost, than to have never been seen at all.