Five Signs You are an Insecure Leader

5 signs you're an insecure leader

So…let’s just be honest.  I’m a little insecure.  My guess is you might be too.

Most leaders I know struggle with some level of insecurity.  In my next post, I’ll share some strategies that can really help getting past the struggle so many of us face.

But in the meantime, how would you know whether insecurity occupies some real estate in your life?  Because self-awareness is a major step toward personal change, here are five signs you might be battling insecurity as a leader:

  1. You are constantly comparing yourself to others. We have lots to learn from other people, but insecure people aren’t driven so much by a desire to learn as they are to know whether they are better or worse than others. There is a world of difference between tracking with someone to grow and learn, and tracking other people or organizations to see how you stack up.  One is healthy, the other destructive.  As Andy Stanley says, there is no win in comparison.
  2. Your sense of self-worth is driven by your latest results. Your opinion of yourself rises and falls with your attendance, blog stats, comment thread, reviews and what others say about you.  I do monitor most of those things, but I’ve had to learn not to obsess over them.  God’s opinion of me doesn’t change with people’s opinion of me.  I need to learn from trends and learn from others, but I cannot let someone else determine my worth.  Preachers, you aren’t nearly as good as your last message, or as bad.
  3. You can’t celebrate someone else’s success. This trait is a tell tale sign that you are insecure.  Why can’t you just give a compliment?  Why can’t you be genuinely happy when someone else succeeds?  Life is actually not a zero sum game – at least not life in God’s Kingdom.  For you to win, someone else does not have to lose.  If you can’t compliment a competitor, why not?  If you can’t celebrate a colleague, is it because you are worried others might think they are better than you? You do not need to be the only one who is ‘great’ at something.
  4. You make no room for people who are more gifted or competent than you. This is where your personal traits inflicts direct harm to your organization (not that the other traits don’t, but this one has a direct and lethal impact).  The sign of a great leader is not that they are the most gifted or competent person in the organization.  The sign of a great leader is someone who can attract and keep people more gifted and competent than themselves.  The future will belong to people who can forge great alliances, make great partnerships and attract great people.
  5. You need to be the final word on everything. Insecure people end up being controlling people.  You don’t need experts because you want to be the expert.  Know-it-alls weren’t much fun in kindergarten; they are less fun in the adult world.  The truth is most of us are only great at one or two things, and even then, you became good at it with the help and advice of others.  When you value the counsel and input of others–especially on the things you’re best at–you embark on a path toward greater wisdom.

Those are some signs I’ve seen that mark insecurity in myself and in others.

How about you?  What have you noticed?


  1. christopher gooding on October 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Let me ask this…is it possible…er, not possible necessarily … let’s start this way.

    …is there a positive spin to insecurity? Is there such a thing as having a “healthy” dose of insecurity? In the vein of a…”healthy” respect or fear?

    Does a certain amount of insecurity help to keep a leader sharp? Certainly not bordering on paranoia of course, but does insecurity somehow benefit in any way?

    Sorry if this takes your post in a completely different tangent…but I was discussing your comments with my wife and I felt a little insecure with my lack of insecurity…(wow, as I re-read that last statement, I want to apologize, that was in no way meant to sound egotistical)…it’s just that she herself claimed all 5 points and stated that I didn’t seem to have to deal with ANY of them.

    Am I NOT a leader if I don’t exhibit insecurity at some level?

    BTW how much do you charge an hour for therapy?
    thanks Carey. 🙂
    Lakeland, FL

    • Carey on October 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      Christopher…you made me laugh. I think everyone’s different. If you are completely secure…enjoy it! I think there’s a difference between being secure and being blind. Over-confident can create blind-spots where you are confident in an ability other people don’t see. Not saying that applies to you at all, but it is something that people who never ask the hard questions can struggle with. And I usually charge in Dairy Queen for my counseling. It’s worth about $5. 🙂

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.