Fear Thesaurus Entry: Leading

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc.

A Fear of Leading

Leading is not easy. It means being responsible and accountable, making decisions that will have a wider impact, and facing scrutinization for certain actions taken. This fear can cause characters to avoid stepping forward when asked (or needed), resent having this role thrust upon them, and even affect those already in a leadership role.

What It Looks Like
Resistance to being in charge
Avoiding making a final decision
Not wanting to be responsible in bigger ways
Not wanting to speak out or speak one’s mind
Letting others decide
Being risk-adverse
Pointing out one’s flaws and lack of suitability to others
Self-sabotage (to prove to others they aren’t leadership material)
Avoiding conflict and arguments
Bringing on a partner to co-lead
Obsessing about one’s missteps and mistakes
Indecisiveness and hesitation
Asking someone else to pass on bad news
Avoiding being the one to make hard decisions (and instead passing the buck or putting it to a vote)
Pulling back or hiding out in stressful times
Trying to avoid public speaking (preferring email and other “silent” ways of communicating, or having someone else make the speeches)
Being prone to over-analyzing rather than decisiveness
Wanting to keep things smaller and less complicated due to doubts of being able to handle something bigger
Wanting to stick to what’s known rather than innovate and experiment
Setting smaller goals because they are easier to achieve
Feeling not up to a challenge
Resisting or minimizing growth (of a movement, a business, a community) to keep things manageable
Pushing people away
Finding reasons to stay in the comfort zone rather than ask, What’s next?
Seeing the drawbacks, not the potential
Feeling one’s knowledge is inadequate and that can’t be changed
Viewing failures or lackluster progress as proof of one’s inability to lead
Focusing on what could go wrong, not what could go right
Worrying about the repercussions
Pretending things are okay when they are not
The character becoming prickly in situations where they don’t know the answer

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to hide from responsibility, but feeling cowardly to want that
Wanting to make things better, but only seeing one’s own shortcomings
Believing leading would be a disaster (if the character hasn’t taken on the role yet)
Wanting to do right by others but fearing one’s efforts will only disappoint
Feeling unworthy of the belief others have in their abilities
Feeling like an impostor
A desire to go back to simpler times
Taking criticism to heart
The misbelief that they are only capable of so much, rather than see personal shortcomings as temporary and subject to change
Over-focusing on mistakes and failures rather than successes
Believing successes are due to luck more than skill
Having good ideas but not wanting to be blamed if something goes wrong

Flaws That May Emerge
Addictive, Defensive, Disorganized, Evasive, Humorless, Impatient, Inattentive, Indecisive, Insecure, Irresponsible, Jealous, Nervous, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pessimistic, Uncommunicative, Withdrawn, Workaholic, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Holding back great ideas out of the fear of being singled out and asked to lead
Suffering with a less-than-ideal status quo
Being unhappy in a follower role
Being stuck with bad leaders and situations that don’t improve
Feeling like they are living beneath their potential
Having to put up with poor leadership because they are unwilling to step forward
Leading, but with a fear-based mindset that catastrophizes rather than see limitless potential
Being pessimistic about the future
Feeling cowardly for not having the courage to step forward

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Being asked to take something over
A survival situation where the character is the best suited to lead
Being the oldest in an emergency, so siblings look to the character to lead
Being promoted at work
Being asked to be in charge of a project, committee, event, etc.
When others come to the character in dire need of help
Needing leadership experience to round out college applications
A death in the family that makes the character a successor
Knowing by not stepping up, greater harm will come.


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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