Quentin Hafner

The Secret Emotion of Every Leader

If you’re reading this post and you’re a leader, a high-performer, or have had some amount of success in your life, then you know that sometimes it’s not all what it seems on the outside.

On the outside, of course you carry yourself with confidence among your peer group and talk about the upward trends in your business.  On the outside, you put on the bravado of doing great, with a positive outlook in your business.

On the outside, you present well on social media; selling the story of success and great things to come.

All of which isn’t necessarily a lie; maybe your business is booming and there are aspects of your life that are working great. 

But what no one knows, and is the secret emotion that nearly every business leader carries, is the anxiety that all of it can fall apart at any moment

What few people know is the many nights that you anxiously lie awake wondering if tomorrow will be the end of it all

What few people know and very few people see is the anxiety you carry of holding it all together.  The tremendous amount of angst just making it from one day to the next.


And at times, that anxiety of being a leader can be brutal.


  • Anxiously wondering if that employment lawsuit going to settle.  
  • Anxiously wondering if you can make payroll this month?  
  • Anxiously wondering why your cash flow isn’t where it needs to be.

Anxieties that no one, unless they’re in it too, really understand.  Real worries.  Real fears that produce so much stress that you wonder if it’s all worth it. 

And what makes it 1,000 times more difficult?  You’re often alone in it.  After all, you’re not really allowed to talk about it right?  And who would really get it….

You can’t tell your spouse because you fear it will upset them too much if they know how much you worry. Maybe they would panic and tell you to get out of the business.

You can’t talk with your networking group or your business advisory group because with them, you have to maintain the presentation of having it all together.   Maybe you fear they would think you’re nuts and stop respecting you if they knew how much you worried.

But deep inside, you struggle with wondering how long you can hold it together. How much longer can you carry this burden.

Every leader, entrepreneur, executive, and small business owner secretly wonders:   Will tomorrow be OK?  Will I be OK?

And maybe it’s not as immediate as tomorrow for you.  Maybe you wonder if you’ll be around next quarter. Or next year. 

It’s the anxiety, the stress, and the worry that no one really understands unless you’ve had to hold it all together like a leader truly does.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we’ve catapulted leaders to the top of the social hierarchy, and with that, have come unreasonable expectations for leaders.  One of which, is the unreasonable expectation that these high-status figures don’t struggle with fear, overwhelm, and debilitating levels of stress.

But they do.  And unfortunately as a culture, we’ve implicitly told these human beings to maintain a presence of having it all together, at their own peril.

The anxiety, worry, and stress for being responsible for the lives of others is a burden only leaders carry and understand.  This is a tremendous sacrifice that comes with being a leader.  But what makes the burden unbearable at times, is having to do it alone. 

Part of my work with leaders is helping them cultivate healthy coping mechanisms for the tremendous anxiety they can carry, and offering them a sounding board to not feel as alone in the burden.  If you’re currently under a mountain of stress, please don’t hesitate to contact me and we can talk about creating a plan to get you feeling more peaceful.


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