Skip to main content

You are here


7 Signs You’ve Lost Your Nerve

A requisite for leadership is courage — you can’t lead without it. Good character, competence, a sense of purpose and being passionate about what you believe is right are all critical, but they aren’t enough.

Here are seven signs to help you determine whether you have lost your nerve.

  1. Disconnect. You know you’ve lost your nerve when there is a disconnect between your heart and your head. Your heart tells you something needs to be done, but your head disables your ability to act.

  2. Failure. You know you’ve lost your nerve when you can’t push past the fear of failure. Failure is an integral part of being a leader. What differentiates a leader from others is the leader’s resilience and the ability to learn from mistakes.

  3. Doubt. You know you’ve lost your nerve when you begin to doubt your ability. Suzy Kassem is credited with the quote, “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” A leader is able to constructively harness doubt, just as an elite athlete or stage star is able to harness their nerves. 

  4. Status Quo. You know you’ve lost your nerve when you settle for the status quo; when you find yourself justifying your actions by rationalizing that everyone else is doing it.

  5. Blind: You know you’ve lost your nerve when fear causes you to lose sight of your sense of purpose. Your sense of purpose is a lighthouse — it needs to provide you a bearing and reassurance when you’re being tossed in a storm.  

  6. Trusted Advisor: You know you’ve lost your nerve when you feel ashamed to share uncertainty and doubt with a trusted advisor.

  7. Certainty: You know you’ve lost your nerve when you now require certainty when previously you were comfortable with doubt.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Cary Nieuwhof’s blog, 5 Reasons Leaders Lose Their Nerve When They Need it Most, as a valuable source and influence for this column. 

Don Trone, Mary Lou Wattman and Rear Admiral Steve Branham, USCG (retired) are the co-founders of 3ethos. Their research and training programs are focused on the intersection between leadership, stewardship and governance. Don and Mary are the co-authors of the recently released book, LeaderMetrics®: What Key Decision-makers Need to Know When Serving in a Critical Leadership Role.