Not PR nightmares, not market crashes, not natural disasters. Not even the death of the business. The most common CEO fear, according to research by Roger Jones of consulting firm Vantage Hill Partners, is being found to be incompetent.
The finding comes from Jones’s 2014 survey of 116 CEOs and other executives, including in-depth interviews with twenty-seven of them. (His research contains many other insights on CEO fears, and you can read about it here.)
In many ways, the top honors awarded to fear of incompetence is the most surprising angle of the research. Don’t CEOs land their spots because of their confidence and competence?
“Imposter syndrome,” where we feel the façade will be ripped away at any moment, exposing us as a fraud, afflicts people in all kinds of roles, from parent to public speaker. But when you’re the CEO—when your job performance is scrutinized to the last detail by employees, customers, analysts, and the general public—the fear of incompetence can become overwhelming.