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Does Your Leadership Suffer from a ‘Fear of Opinion’?

It’s normal to have fears. Being scared of potentially harmful situations has helped humans live this long. Apart from some exceptions, we run away from and not towards the man-eating crocodile.

But some fears aren’t beneficial to our survival, especially when they manifest themselves in the workplace. One example of this is allodoxaphobia, or a fear of opinion. When present at high intensities, this fear can dampen our decision-making skills and render our leadership a blunt instrument, really hurting our business.

Below we explore the fear of opinion in more detail and offer some tips to help get your leadership team back in charge.

What is a Fear of Opinion?

It can be hard to listen to what other people think. Especially if these opinions could be unfavourable and reflect badly on you. Someone suffering from a fear of opinion is debilitated by this feeling. They feel that their thoughts don’t matter and as a result the opinions of the other person carry much more weight. Everything hinges on their ideas, not yours.

Essentially, it can be characterised as a lack of self-confidence. And this can have some problematic implications in the workplace. After all, leaders need to be decisive in their actions and have confidence in the ability of themselves and their team. And anyone can be a leader with the right attitude.

However, if you’re suffering from a fear of opinion, you’re essentially afraid to make decisions. And this kind of inaction can have terrible results for your business. Let’s look at a quick example of a fairly serious situation.

Consider a CEO of a company that sells fans. They’ve just released a new model, the CX3 Airflow, which has had a huge uptake. But the fans are faulty, setting alight and posing a serious risk to public safety. The CEO receives a huge amount of advice about what to do, how to avoid legal action and reputational damage, without sending the company broke. Some of these opinions differ, and thus she is required to flex her leadership muscle. If she sits back on these opinions and doesn’t have one herself, the problem will only compound further.

Whatever the next move, leaders are in these positions to make decisions and there’s no time to fear their own opinions.

How Did We Get Here and What Should We Do?

Having opinions is seen as difficult because we feel that we have to commit to something, even if we might be wrong. And this is particularly important if we make that opinion publicly because then we can be held accountable if we later change our minds.

Let’s think about the biggest sufferers of the modern-day fear of opinion, our politicians. They fear public backlash to such an extent that instead of releasing Policy X they will instead doctor their language and “start a conversation about X.” If the public reject the idea, they can still retract the potential plan without ever making a public commitment. So this fear allows people to save face in the short-term, but then it forms a habit which can be hard to break.

Just like politicians, many industries have become heavily reliant on the focus groups to lead the way. Certainly, hearing more voices can create a deeper understanding and assist decision-making, but that’s only possible if your own voice isn’t drowned out. Think about customer advisory boards or business advisory boards. They can be important assets, giving valuable opinions, but they’ll only be effective if they’re directed by your leaders.

As people in business, we’re tasked with making a lot of tough decisions. And they won’t always be popular. Ensure you’re always listening and learning, but don’t forget to back yourself. It’s amazing how many thought-leaders got to where they wanted to go by staying positive and confident in their abilities. Step outside your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to be heard.


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Neil Parker
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