None of us are perfect leaders. But we can hinder our leadership abilities and those we’re leading with how secure we are in our leadership. Below are two areas of insecure leadership and suggestions for becoming a more secure leader. So what are the differences between an insecure and a secure leader? And how can we develop ourselves so we can be more confident in our leadership?

Here are two areas in leading a group of people, regardless of the setting and circumstances. This isn’t going to cover everything, but I hope you can spot areas you may be struggling with. Or can use some of the points to change your insecurities to areas of strength.

Emotions & Environment

How we handle our emotions affects what kind of atmosphere we create and nurture around us. 

Insecure leaders

Tend to be more stressed. Their emotions have a mixture of fear of their inadequacies being found out, struggling to deal with the pressures to handle their responsibilities. Or they aren’t sure of who they are, so they need regular affirmation. Because of all these elements, they can be somewhat inconsistent in handling new information, interruptions, or the day’s demands. They could be abrupt or loud in their responses, use harsh tones or be very quick to go from being ok to angry. 

Not knowing how your leader will handle news or a question causes others to be cautious or fearful of having to be the person to bring new information to their leader. Team members could put off talking or avoid dealing with situations because of how their leader could react. An atmosphere of fear, anger or unpredictability can create paralysis, minor concerns being left to fester until more significant issues arise. Being in a stressful environment can cause physical problems like high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, anxiety or panic attacks. No one likes to continue in this environment unless they have to. Therefore some people will leave the team as soon as they can – so you have high staff turnover, higher sick days, low morale and motivation, thus lower productivity and creativity.  

Secure leaders

They are aware of their emotions. They control their emotions and choose their reactions. So on the outside, they seem more calm, controlled and stable. This brings security and peace to their environment. Yes, they can still be stressed, but their stress isn’t projected onto others to have to deal with. Therefore, people feel safe to come and share problems, ask for help and enjoy their working environment. This leads to higher creativity and productivity levels as they can work as a team and work through problems together. Happy leaders also give encouragement, reward their staff and inspire them to do their best because they want to.

How can you develop your emotions to be healthy and productive?

Understand that your emotions don’t control you, as you can choose how to respond to your emotions. If your personality is more of a feeler than a thinker, you will lean towards making decisions from your heart, not your head. But you can develop tools to help you use your emotions as an asset, not a curse. Instead of bottle them up, get outside (professional) help to process and discover the root causes of your emotions. When you understand where that emotion is coming from and what it’s trying to tell you, they are an asset to help you understand yourself and those around you. If you have pain from your past – ask God and a counsellor to help you work through those areas and get the healing and restoration you need.

Read books, go on courses, ask others how they deal with their stress. We need a healthy amount of pressure to work efficiently. But excess stress can be managed, so it doesn’t harm you physically, mentally or emotionally. We all need to find healthy ways to express it and release it, so we don’t internalise it or dump it on others. I know a lot of men who need physical exercise to help release their stress. Getting outside for a walk or a run will help immensely.

Give yourself time each day to reflect on how your team are doing. How can you intentionally encourage and create a good atmosphere for you all to work in? Are there areas that need attention now before they get out of control, really hurt people or cause healthy productivity to decrease? Be intentional in how you encourage each team member, it’s easy to find fault. But it takes meaningful thought and practice to become natural at regularly encouraging.

Regularly take time to think of ten things you’re thankful for today in your workplace. This will help you keep a positive mindset and limit struggles from overwhelming you.

“Insecure leaders think everything is about them, and as a result, every action, every piece of information, every decision is put through their filter of self-centeredness”

 John C. Maxwell – The 360 Degree leader, p36

Level of control

Insecure leaders

Constantly struggle to feel the need to be in control because they don’t feel like they are. It comes from a place of not wanting others to be better than yourself, possibly tied to keeping your position as the leader safe. This may be linked to your identity coming from your position/title, not who you are as a child of God. 

Many respond to this lack of control by controlling everything- thus micromanaging all the details – which they don’t have the capacity to do. A common thought for new leaders is that they have to control because they are the leader. 

Some insecurities manifest in those whose personality preferences want all the details to be perfect and done in their way. Or, in order to be needed, withhold information, so people have to keep coming back to them for the next step. This can cause some to want to compartmentalise areas of the project, so no one else sees the big picture. 

They may also see questions as a threat to their position. Like showing dishonour and questioning the leader rather than seeking clarification or more information to help do the job being asked of them. Failure is also dealt with harshly. As there is no room for mistakes as it’s seen as a reflection on the leader, which can’t happen. Therefore insecure leaders are quick to blame others for even their own mistakes. 

Secure leaders

Recognise that they can’t do everything themselves. That they don’t have all the gifts and skills needed to succeed well. They are happy to delegate. They share the big picture, invite and want others ideas and suggestions so as a team can come up with the plan of action. Secure leaders also give their team room to try new things, make mistakes and use their initiative. Failures are seen as ways for all to grow and learn. 

I really appreciated the company I worked for back in Glasgow. If you owned up to a mistake early, even if it cost the company a lot of money. They didn’t punish you but took part ownership for the error to see what system, training or other lack had helped caused the mistake to happen. But if you tried to hide your mistake or blame someone else – then you were disciplined for your choice of response. Therefore everyone grew from the experience so it wouldn’t happen in that way again.

How can you be in control yet give people more freedom?

It’s a change of mindset. Trusting your team to also want to not just achieve your goal but see it done well. Communicating that as a team member, they share responsibility and feel part of the ownership of the task being asked of them and your desire to having them work to the best of their ability. This fosters care and ownership of what they do that their part impacts the whole, and you want them to be part of it. When we give people room to fail, we also provide them with room to grow and find their potential. This helps everyone learn, thus increasing productivity, potential and future possibilities. It also boosts confidence. People will do more and even surprise themselves in what they’re able to do when their leader has faith in them. 

There is a difference between checking-in and checking-up. Checking-in means you care about where your team are at, want to see where they need help, opportunities for questions or discussions on how to move forward to gather. Touching base to see what else they need, so you can support them and fix potential blockages are positive connections. Checking-up has an air of mistrust that you need to see where they are at because you don’t think they are doing what they should be doing. That you’re looking for what’s wrong, not how’s it going.

Yes, you are choosing to give them more freedom, but you’re not abandoning them. Checking in with each member regularly helps you keep the big picture to ensure everything stays on track together. Giving you opportunities to encourage and adjust what needs altering before more extensive changes are required or issues solved. But you aren’t holding others back because of your limited time or capacity. 

“Secure leaders recognize God-given talent in others and God-given limitations in themselves”

By Sam Luce – 3 actions you must take to lead under insecure leaders.

Where our true security lies.

What all secure leaders have in common is their identity—how they see themselves. For Christians, that means we know who we are in Christ. We are sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. We know we are loved not for what we do but for who we are in Him. Every morning my daily prayer is – Lord, what would you like me to do today? Yes, I have many things in my schedule and other things I’m thinking of accomplishing. But I want to know if there’s anything in particular or new that my heavenly Father would like me to prioritise or add. I trust Him. He knows what’s going on in the lives around me, what else I’ve forgotten that needs attention and the best timing for all these things.

My priority is how can I be faithful with what God has asked for me. I know He sees what I do in my various roles as important. He cares more about my team members and students than me. I want to be a blessing in all I do. At the end of the day, the person I want to please is my heavenly Father and Lord. He is my foundation and rock. So my security comes from Him and not from the ever possible changing circumstances in the world around me. 

Change is inevitable 

One lesson the world has learned over this past year is that plans may change outwith our control. We are used to waking up in the morning to find that a new wave of restrictions has to happen. Thus our hopes and plans for the coming weeks have to be adjusted—again. It’s forced us to be resourceful, think outside the box, put some dreams on hold or do things we never imagine we could. Change is inevitable, but right now, it’s still on fast-forward. 

For those who struggle with who we are or hate change, it’s been an uncomfortable year. But when we have God as our rock, safe in the knowledge and trusting that He has the best way forward – then pandemic’s won’t stop us from being the best version of ourselves – or inspiring those around us to bring their best either.

There is hope

If you’re someone who recognised many of the insecurities I’ve mentioned above. Don’t be discouraged. Welcome the fact that you now recognise them. Identifying areas that need to be worked on is the first step. You are not alone – God is with you. There are others around you can ask for help. Ask forgiveness for what you’ve done wrong and ask for grace and help heal and change so you can become the leader God know’s you can be. The best day to decide to change is today. There is hope. You can become a secure leader who others will want to model after. it’s just going to take effort, time and humility.

There are of course many other areas we can show our insecurities as a leader. I’m sure there are many books out there with chapters dedicated to this topic. Let me know which other areas you’d like me to cover here.

Other blogs which might help you are #15 What does it mean to take responsibility. #10 Three steps to help you develop as a leader. #5 Transformation through the drip, drip effect.

Other articles out there I’ve found helpful are: The 3 faces of the insecure leader and 6 ways to build healthy confidence. 5 signs of an insecure leader