Why Doubt Creeps In

The Psychology Behind Leadership Insecurities

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

Suzy Kassem


Every leader, whether standing at the helm of a multinational or leading a team of five, has occasionally grappled with doubt. It's like being caught in an intellectual tug-of-war; on one end, your ambitions pull you forward, and on the other, insecurities hold you back. Understanding these insecurities isn't just about awareness—it's about empowerment. Building resilience is crucial in this empowerment process. So, let's delve deeper into some of the reasons why even the most confident leaders sometimes feel their footing wobble, and more importantly, what you can do about it.


The Human Brain and Uncertainty

Our brains are evolutionarily hardwired for survival. Recognising threats was, historically, a matter of life and death. But in the modern boardroom? Not so much. Yet, these deep-rooted instincts, though outdated, still resonate, causing leaders to second-guess themselves.

Action: Consistently review your choices. Are they based on genuine concerns or unfounded fears? Recognising the difference is half the battle.

Impostor Syndrome and Leadership

Ever felt like a fraud about to be exposed? Welcome to the club! Impostor syndrome hits most of us at some point, making us feel undeserving. It's more common than you think.

Action: Reframe the way you think about imposter syndrome. Experiencing it can often mean you're pushing your boundaries, stepping out of your comfort zone and growing as a leader.

Social Comparison Theory

In an age where every achievement is a LinkedIn update, it's tough not to measure yourself against others. But here's a thought - what if the only person you compare yourself to is the 'yesterday' version of yourself?

Action: Set personal benchmarks. It's your race; set your pace.

Past Failures and Their Shadows

Failures. We've all had them. Some sting, while others hit hard. At times, the weight of past failures can loom over our present, influencing our choices and making us hesitate and doubt ourselves.

Action: Adopt a growth mindset. Every setback is a stepping stone to your next success.

The Weight of Responsibility

Leading people is no joke. It's not just about figures and charts; the responsibility of shaping careers, guiding aspirations, and influencing futures is vast. It’s only natural for the sheer magnitude of a leadership role to be overwhelming at times.

Action: Delegate responsibilities. Trust in your team's abilities. Lean on their expertise and let them share the load.

Feedback, Criticism, and Self-Doubt

Criticism can feel like salt on a wound or fuel for growth, depending on perspective. The trick lies in differentiating between constructive feedback that aids growth and noise that hinders it.

Action: Create a feedback filter. Not all advice is worth its weight in gold.


Leadership inevitably brings its share of doubts. Recognising and understanding them is the first step. Building resilience alongside these strategies helps you navigate these challenges more effectively, ensuring that you not only survive but thrive under pressure. It's not about eliminating these insecurities but about navigating them with insight. As you face challenges, remember that every leader grapples with similar feelings. The key is to learn, adapt, and evolve.


There are so many great books linked to this topic! I’ve listed several here written by well-known authors, but it’s well worth reading a few for alternative perspectives and deeper insights:

  • "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead" by Brené Brown: Whilst this book covers more than just leadership at work because it dives deep into vulnerability, which is often at the core of many leadership insecurities, it’s definitely worth a read.

  • "Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't" by Simon Sinek: This is a really interesting exploration of trust and security as foundations of leadership and factors crucial to combating leadership insecurities.

  • "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck: A study of how having a "fixed" vs. a "growth" mindset can determine success and confidence in leadership roles. I’m a big fan of this one and pretty sure I’ll be mentioning it in other articles too!

Thanks for reading. Until next time,


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