Actualized Leadership: Integrating Your Leadership Shadow Part 2 of 5: Achievers and the Fear of Failure

Actualized Leadership: Integrating Your Leadership Shadow Part 2 of 5: Achievers and the Fear of Failure

It seems to me that the best one can do is not to fear mistakes, but to plunge into them.
Abraham Maslow

In my last blog, Integrating Your Leadership Shadow, I provided an overview of Carl Jung’s concept of the “Shadow” as it relates to leadership and management. The purpose of this blog is to examine the first Leadership Style and Shadow, Achievers and the Fear of Failure Shadow, and to offer a framework for integrating this darkness into your conscious awareness, which enables you to step into your highest potential.

First, if you have not yet done so, please complete the free assessment to determine your Leadership Style and corresponding Shadow:

Achievers, those driven primarily out of a strong need for recognition, are the backbone of our organizations. Achievers are excellent accountants, technology professionals, organizers, and salespeople. Many strike out for entrepreneurial success on their own, and they are not adverse to rolling up their sleeves and doing everything, from making the million dollar sale to brewing the coffee. Achievers focus on winning, success, and improvement, and are organized, detailed-oriented, and technical experts.  

However, when the Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow is activated, the strengths identified above become inherent limitations. Under stress, an Achiever will transform in unproductive ways: organized becomes rigid, detail-oriented devolves into being obsessive, and expertise leads to micromanagement. Much like Dr. Jekyll’s transformation into Mr. Hyde, experiencing stress in the form of ambiguity or “losing” triggers the Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow and the ugly transformation. The existential and ironic tragedy is that when this happens Achievers actually increase the likelihood that they will fail.

Abundance: The Antidote for the Fear of Failure

One of the single most important decisions you will ever make is: Do I live in a world of scarcity or in a world of abundance? While many of us might explicitly affirm the latter, we often instinctually act as if the former is true. I most often see this dynamic play out with Achievers. Focusing on cultivating a sense of abundance is a profound way to counter the darkness lurking in our Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow.

Scarcity vs. Abundance

In her best-selling book “Mindset,” Stanford Professor Dr. Carol Dweck provides compelling research for the benefits of cultivating a sense of abundance, what she refers to as a “Growth Mindset.” In order to illustrate this concept, she compares it to seeing the world through the lens of scarcity, or a “Fixed Mindset.” When you see the world through a scarcity lens, you believe that your abilities and capacity for growth are set or “fixed,” and that the world operates in a “Win/Lose” mode, which creates an urgent need to prove yourself over and over.

By contrast, cultivating a sense of abundance with a “Growth Mindset” allows individuals to see the world in a “Win/Win” modality, where the success of others inspires, not depresses, you. Moreover, you begin to embrace challenges as pathways toward growth, to persist despite setbacks and, most importantly for Achievers, to learn from, and even celebrate, your failures and imperfections.

Cultivating a Sense of Abundance

Here are some tips for cultivating the antidote for the Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow, abundance:

  1. Confront Your Scarcity Mindset – As with so much in life and leadership, development starts with profound awareness. You must begin the process of cultivating a sense of abundance by acknowledging you have been operating with a fixed mindset.
  2. Offer Words of Appreciation and Gratitude – Telling people how much you admire and appreciate them, and offering your own gratitude for what you have, are transformational acts of gratitude that often lead us to the path of experiencing a greater sense of abundance.
  3. Spend Time in Silent Reflection – In addition to allowing us the space to cultivate and express gratitude, time in reflection allows us to take stock of our blessings and to truly feel the abundance that exists in nature. In his book “Life, the Truth, and Being Free,” author Steve Maraboli states that “… those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons to get up.”

In his classic book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl introduces us to the concept of “Paradoxical Intent,” which simply means the more we fear something, the more likely we will experience it. It’s a tragic irony of the human condition. When Achievers allow their Fear of Failure Leadership Shadow to manage them, they not only miss their highest potential, they also increase the probability of experiencing the very thing they are so desperately trying to avoid: failure. If you are an Achiever, are you living in the shadow of scarcity? What will become possible for you, and your team, when you step into the light of an abundant world?

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