Organization Development

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organization Development (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



John Conbere; Alla Heorhiadi; Linda Halverson


Using the grounded theory methodology, this study explored the topic of leaders’ fears by asking participants questions about their experiences with their fears. Twenty-four director level and above leaders working in industries such as retail, medical device, consulting firms, industrial, real estate, and academia, participated in this study to contribute to the unveiling of their fears, fear responses, and the relationship leaders have with their fears. The research revealed a set of universal fears shared by the participating leaders and demonstrates that leaders have fears, just like other humans possess. Twenty fears covering four different categories were found and included: integrity (fear of inadequateness, underachievement, and vulnerability), credibility (minimal organizational support, rejections, presenting, losing status, and misperception), uncertainty (fear of unknowns, unfamiliarity, inexperience, and lacking information), and results (fear of failure, wrongs, bad outcomes, and minimal success). Participant responses showed patterns of fear acting as stimulus-generating strategies moving the leader to an outcome. Findings revealed that the more leaders know their fear, the more they tend to exercise positive response strategies and consequently improve their performance outcomes, self-confidence, and leadership abilities. Equally, knowing their own fears improved their relationship with their fears and the leaders were then able to modify and refine future responses. The research also demonstrates the value of knowing fear. Discussing their fear-related emotions, reliable strategies, and their relationship with their fears resulted in (a) improving leadership development, and (b) being a leader while they were vulnerable; two aspiring goals stemming from this research.


fear(s), leadership, leaders, fear response strategies, fear relationship model

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.