Karin’s Leadership Articles

Our biggest leadership screw-ups are fear in disguise. Fears have a powerful and dangerous habit of shape shifting into a monster that stands in our way, blocking the behaviors we most need for success.

Mike’s arrogant approach and intimidating demeanor is covering up his biggest fear–that the team will discover he’s not really an expert. The team talks about him constantly–about his horrible leadership–and avoids interaction. His fear wins.

John doesn’t start the blog he’s always wanted to write for fear of being irrelevant. His fear wins.

Rachel doesn’t share her best practices with her peers, because she wants to be the best and get promoted. She doesn’t get promoted because she’s not a team player. Her fear wins.

When we pretend we’re not afraid, fear wins.

By denying what scares us, our worst characteristics emerge bigger than the demons we fear.

But if we can NAME our fear, and see it for what it truly is–a ridiculous exaggeration of the worse case scenario–we stop the cycle.

We show up stronger, and have the strength to lead from a place of bigger confidence.

No one teaches this better than J.K. Rowling’s Professor Lupin.

Name your fear. Visualize it. Face it. And discover what makes it ridiculous.

I agree with Seth, “the worst trolls are in your head.” Give them a name. Laugh at them. And lead well.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    I call those thoughts that come into our heads the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee. Some cal them Gremlins.

    I like to step into the fear and watch it vaporize.

    p.s. I’ve never been able to get into the Harry Potter movies. Yesterday I saw Kingsman and thought it was an enjoyable couple of hours. Especially Targon Egerton who plays one of the leads named Eggsy. Targon is rumored to play the next Han Solo. Interestingly enough, Mark Hammil played a Professor in Kingsman.

    • karin hurt

      Steve, We’ve enjoyed the books much more than the movies. This post was inspired because I am getting ready to visit Harry Potter World with my children in conjunction with a conference I’m attending in Orlando. Sebastian was listening to the book on audio in the car, and I was overwhelmed by that scene from a building confidence perspectiev.

      Hey really wants to see Kingsman, but I think he;s too young. I need to preview first, so will wait until it comes out on video. With that said, I’ve always had a crush on Hans Solo 😉

  2. bill holston

    Great post, as usual. Over the years I’ve been asked about something: ‘Are you nervous?’ I usually respond,”If you are not a little nervous, you don’t understand what’s going on.’ Fear is not really a bad thing sometimes. It think it’s a sign you understand what is at stake. What’s bad is when it is crippling, and you are frozen in inaction, or worse as in the examples you give, it inhibits collaboration.

    I think the best antidote is to focus on end results. Keep the mission front and center.

    • karin hurt

      Bill, Great point. I’m with you, anything worth doing is always at least a little scary. Love your advice on focusing on keeping the end goal front and center.

  3. LaRae Quy

    That was one of my favorite Harry Potter scenes! Like so many of our fears, once we turn around and look them straight in the face, they lose their power over us.

    And every time we do, we are learning how to control our mind, instead of letting of letting it control us. That is the definition of mental toughness!

    Great point, Karin!

    • karin hurt

      LaRae, I was thinking of your and your mental toughness work when I saw this. Indeed. There’s definitely something to be said for looking your fear straight in the eye.

  4. Terri Klass

    Excellent post for all leaders!

    Fear can be so debilitating and prevent us from achieving what we are so qualified to do. I love when you talk about naming your fear. That can be so powerful and empower us to just laugh it off, as the wonderful Harry Potter clip shows. I feared being able to tackle social media years ago and just made myself take action. Action can be the antidote to fear.

    Thanks Karin!

    • karin hurt

      Terri, Excellent example. I had the same issue with social media… “Oh, I’m too old to learn that stuff….” It’s amazing how easy it is once you just start.

  5. Alli Polin

    Ahhh. The gremlin or saboteur that sits on our shoulder until we flick it off. The voice that says you can’t, you shouldn’t, you’re going to suck. It’s a crazy simple technique but we really can invite our saboteur to take a hike and step into being the leader we’re meant to be.

    This one will hit home for so many, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Thanks so much! I like the idea of just “flicking it off.” Nice image.

  6. Mitch Mitchell

    I love this post and the fact that you linked it to Harry Potter; that wins big time with me. 🙂

    Sure, we all have fears. I’m fighting one lately that’s holding me back in my business. The thing is I know what to do, I know where it comes from, yet I haven’t been able to push past it. Eventually though I will because when my back is against the wall, that’s when I act. However, it would be nice if I wasn’t working from a point of desperation; I’d easily be more at peace.

    • Karin Hurt

      Mitch, Thanks so much for your honesty. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Posts