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My Top 5 Fears as a Marketing Leader

Believe it or not, these are incredibly motivating.

Hey folks 👋, I'm Kenneth Burke. #BurkeBits is where I share stories, data, and frameworks to help you become a better marketer. Subscribe for free to level-up.

Competence creates confidence.

After 25,000+ hours of working and studying, trying to become the world’s best marketer, I feel confident in my abilities. I’m not the best—not by a long shot—by I’m good. I’ve had enough wins to prove that.

And yet, most days I’m still a little bit afraid. I know other marketing leaders are, too—and writing is therapy—so I wanted to share my fears in hopes we can commiserate together, and create a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Do any of these affect you, too? Let me know.

1. Living up to responsibilities.

Probably my biggest fear is letting down someone who trusts or respects me. The higher you build someone up, the farther they fall.

I don’t know how many people trust or respect me, or to what extent, but I do know every flaw I have and every mistake I’ve made. What if they find out?

You might call this imposter syndrome, and I suppose this is a part of that, but I’m not particularly worried that I don’t belong where I am. It’s more that I have a responsibility to live up to expectations—my own as well as others’—and if I don’t, I’ll be devastated.

The silver lining is this also motivates me to do and be better.

2. Committing fully to something that doesn’t work.

The paths to Hell and bankruptcy are paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions and strongly-held beliefs, though usually helpful assets in business, are not enough to keep the pipeline flowing and people employed.

Even if 100% of our data and my intuition point to the same decision, I’m worried about it until I see dollars in the bank. Even if I know it’ll work, I’m still afraid of being wrong.

“Never count your chickens,” as they say.

3. Not committing fully to something that’s perfect.

Opportunities never last forever, and FOMO (fear of missing out) is real.

Logically, I know there will always be another opportunity. I know I have to say “no” to most things so we can say “yes” to the most important things—the things we’ve collectively set as our top priorities.

But every now and then, an incredible opportunity pops up. Will I see it and jump on it when it does? What if I don’t?

4. Getting left behind.

There’s a fine line between being in a groove and being in a rut.

Occasionally, I become very comfortable with what we’re doing. It’s working, it’s not stressful, everybody’s happy. Is this one of those enjoy-it-while-it-lasts moments, or a sure sign that I’m being complacent?

According to Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, I’m the type of person who’d fit into the “late majority.” I’m good at seeing problems as opportunities and figuring out how to solve them, but I’m not particularly innovative or trusting of new things. It’d be rather easy for me to become set in my ways, so long as they’re working well enough. I have to be intentional to push myself and adapt.

5. Doing enough.

This one may be the easiest to write off. You can’t possibly do everything, and some things aren’t worth the effort.

I fully believe that if I want to make something happen, I can. Others have done it, why can’t I do it, too? But do I want it enough? Should I be completing more tasks every day, or spending more time learning, or being scrappier to hit our goals?

Especially as a marketing leader, am I leading enough? Am I coaching, communicating, or advocating enough?

The real struggle with this fear is that the target for “enough” is always moving.

What’s the point?

It’s easy for me to dwell on my fears. It probably is for you, too. There are still obligations and people to serve, though, so sometimes we have to “do it scared.”

That’s okay. Admit it. Whether we talk about it or not, I’ve learned, most marketing leaders have to grapple with these same things. We might as well be open about them.

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Have questions about this topic or something you’re working on? Ask away! I’m an open book and happy to help.