Career Guide


Leadership is scary

Feel the fear and jump into it anyway

Leadership is scary. No, this isn’t a Stephen King type article on leadership, so no scary music or creatures creeping up on you when you least expect it. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be so scary.

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

I see, work, hear and feel leadership every day. I don’t even think we know that we are leaders or are leading. But we are.

I think we have made leadership bigger than what is it. We see the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, Brené Brown or Elizabeth Broderick (I could name plenty more) who are all iconic leaders to me.

They are the epitome of what I think leadership is about.

I am not achieving great things or leading amazing causes, so I am not a leader. I don’t have a ‘Chief Executive Officer’ (CEO) or ‘Manager’ in my title, therefore I am not a leader.

I have met plenty of CEOs who are not leaders – keep that in mind!

However, leadership isn’t about titles. It is about action. It is about behaviour, attitude and mindset.

Leadership is about making a difference to others. Some of the best leaders in my life have empowered me in small ways.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

I have worked with and coached thousands of leaders who did not see themselves as leaders, but they are. It is the little things.

What leadership means

You might think leadership is scary, but it’s not. This is what leadership means to me:

- Leaders can be made. So bring it on!

- Knowing your leadership story and owning those moments in your life where you have demonstrated leadership. Also who has made a difference to who you are today?

- Being authentically you. Be a huge fan of authentic leadership. Such leaders are grounded and humble. They are the same person at home, work, and in the community.

- Self-awareness is key – know who you are. Your strengths, motivators, talents, passions, triggers and weaknesses. What are they? Think about tools you can use to find this out.

- Leadership is about others. Empowering, inspiring and coaching others to lead.

- Great leaders surround themselves with their tribe – people who are advisors, mentors, and supporters. They know you inside out; they are willing to give you honest feedback.

- Leaders are self-taught. Always keep your mind open to learning and growing.

- Leadership is about courage and failure. Have the courage to be seen, make a difference and be vulnerable. It is okay to fail. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from stepping up. Own up when you stuff up. Learn from your failures and mistakes, and get back up.

- Leadership is about integrity. It’s about leading by example, not saying one thing and then doing another.

- Leadership is about trusting yourself and building trust with those around you.

- Finally, always focus on your why. Why do you do what you do, your purpose, your passions.

Scared? Feel the fear. Jump. Leadership is about courage. Yes, at times being a leader or leading is scary. Life is scary.

Don’t you want to look back on your life and say to yourself: “I lived it with courage and I was the best leader I could be”?

It doesn’t have to be scary. When I look back on my story and experiences, I am who I am today as a leader because of them not despite them. Even the bad experiences have shaped who I am today and are things that I’m incredibly proud of.


Your call to action

I want you to reflect on your leadership experiences and stories. Own them. Share them. And keep building on them.

Don’t make leadership bigger than it is. You are a leader. You’ve got this. Leadership is magnificent. And so are you.


Sonia McDonald is CEO of LeadershipHQ and has vast experience in organisational development, learning and development, facilitating, and leadership development. She is passionate about building long-term partnerships with her clients and making sure she achieves the best results for their business and people. To get in touch with Sonia, email us at editor@leaderonomics.com

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