Are You Afraid To Shine As A Leader?

shine-guide-lighthouse(1)Have you ever been around someone whose energy seems to shine? There is no particular thing they say or do; there’s just something about these individuals that draws others to them. Some people call it charisma or a magnetic personality, but it’s more than that. A type of radiance deep inside seems to emanate out, a “shininess” that others see, feel, and are attracted to.

I believe everyone possesses the ability to “shine” in some way, but many people don’t cultivate or allow this shininess to come out. But what would cause someone, particularly a leader, to make a conscious or unconscious decision to minimize his or her shininess?

Perhaps it’s a matter of not recognizing it inside yourself, even though you can see it in others. If you don’t take the time to be introspective, you can overlook, or worse yet – hide or cover up the very characteristic that could elevate you from being an average leader to an exceptional one. Besides not seeing it in yourself, what other reasons could exist for turning down the wattage on your brightness?

There can be numerous reasons for this, but one of the greatest culprits is fear.

Let’s take a look at seven ways that fear might show up.

1.   Fear of failure

The fear of failing can be crippling yet failure is among the greatest accelerators of success. Our most significant learning experiences are often rooted in failure.

We have numerous examples of people who have shined brightly as they emerge from failure to success. From Abe Lincoln to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford – failure can be the buffing tool that creates our most incredible shine, and yet many of us avoid it.

Learning from failure has been demonstrated time and time again. But when have you heard someone say that they learned to succeed by staying small, procrastination or hesitation?

Failure can be scary but it’s the fertilizer of success.

2.   Fear of what others think

The fear of what others think about you is like putting leg-irons on a sprinter. What if Shakespeare wrote his great literary works while looking over his shoulder and listening for approval? We’d be asking, “Shakespeare who?” What if Fred Smith craved the approval of his critics? After all, the FedEx business model made no sense whatsoever on paper, yet we all know how successful FedEx became.

From great leaders to great thinkers, to powerful marriages, to wonderful parenting; no matter where you want to shine, fear of what others think always slows down your potential and dims your light.

3.   Fear of being judged less than or not enough

Those little voices in your head can be so loud that it blows the shine right out of your heart. If you can’t turn the noise off, then you must turn it down to a whisper.

Find what encourages you and lifts you up – then turn the volume up on that channel. Insecurity and self-doubt will ruin your shine quicker than trying to buff a car with a Hershey bar.

4.   Fear of being criticized

Worrying about critical comments from others can come from opposite spectrums of how we view ourselves. On the one end, your self-esteem or confidence might be so depleted that anything said that’s not positive is taken as criticism and reinforces a diminished view of self. However, on the other end of the spectrum, a fear of being criticized can come from an overly inflated self-view that bristles against anything other than praise. A listen to recent political debates might offer a great study or spectacle depending upon your perspective.

If fear of being criticized is a factor in how you diminish your shininess, allow yourself to contemplate which side of the scale it’s coming from and then look for balance. Now, and in the final analysis, your most important critic looks back at you every day from the mirror.

5.   Fear of too much work 

Perhaps you feel it will take too much work to get to a point of shining. You may think that the payoff is not worth the effort it takes to achieve it. But someone much smarter than me once said…

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”


So if you feel it’s too much work, maybe what you’re working on is not where your passion lies. It’s easy to shine when doing something you love. 

6.   Fear of looking silly

We may initially think about this fear being the same as fear of what others think, but it goes deeper. The fear that you’ll look silly can be related to fear of movement or being seen at all – thinking, “If I don’t move – no one will see me”.

Fear can be a balancing act when it comes to finding your shininess. If you balance the fear of looking silly because you made your ideas and dreams actionable, versus the fear of having never tried – I think I know which one wins every time. It might sound cliché, but better to try and fail, than to sit there and rust.

7.   Fear of success

This one may be a bit surprising.

Such thoughts as, “What if I cannot keep it up? What if I was just lucky? What if this creates a new life that I won’t like?” can certainly cause a cloud to hang over your shininess.

If you find that your pulling back comes from a fear of success, reflect on past successes you have experienced at some point in your life. Start by making a list of just one success you’re proud of, and then another, and another. Before you know it, there will be lots of shiny moments reflecting on the page.

These are just a few reasons to contemplate why you or someone you know might be sabotaging shininess. I welcome your thoughts and comments on other reasons or ideas on the subject.


Carly Vivian
Carly Vivian
CARLY is an expert in leadership development and organizational change management (OCM). Her mission is to reinvent how people think about change, replacing fear and inertia with clarity of direction and forward momentum. Carly loves to work with leaders and help guide them and their teams through major transitions with agility, connection, and commitment. As a leader in Slalom's Business Advisory Services practice, she leads strategic initiatives to bring new levels of transformation and change management to clients. With 20+ years of consulting experience and deep expertise in executive coaching, organization effectiveness, strategy, and team effectiveness, she has a proven track record for delivering solutions that drive growth, accelerate innovation and result in improved outcomes. Carly can be reached at [email protected]

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