There are two kinds of leaders in today's world: those who disrupt and those who get disrupted.

Obviously, most of us want to be the former. We want to make the world better. We want to write the rules, not follow them. We want to see our dreams realized, and not let our fears prevent us from achieving what we believe deep in our hearts we're capable of.

But aspiring innovators face obstacles, some of which are easy to see and predict and plan for, and others that are much more pernicious and debilitating. Why? Because they're invisible. Due to their subversive, destructive nature, I call these barriers silent killers, because they operate much the same way as high blood pressure, which shows no overt symptoms before a massive heart attack strikes.

Silent killers are powerful human fears and anxieties that derail our dreams of becoming future innovators and respected leaders.

I'm sure there are more than seven, but these are the ones that I've seen time and again over 25 years of interviewing iconic leaders, executive coaching, teaching, and starting businesses.

1. Fear of looking like an idiot.

Sometimes when we step into an innovative new role or a position of leadership, we question our own qualifications. We become overwhelmed with anxiety and what some psychologists call the imposter syndrome. This can be immobilizing because we are afraid to act and to speak up. We are guilt-stricken and full of shame because we feel we are out of our league, or somehow don't deserve to be where we are. Courage is speaking up and taking action, even when we're not yet experts or certain how others will respond. 

When the introverted Daniel Greenberg started an LED light business while still in high school in Louisville, Kentucky, he had no idea how to drum up sales. Friends recommended that he pursue TikTok advertising. That made him nervous. He had no expertise on this social media platform. At the time, TikTok seemed to him like a place where high school girls showed off their latest dance routines, not where entrepreneurs went to generate interest for their new venture. Greenberg didn't want to be perceived as an "idiot," particularly since he was applying to universities at the time, and he knew admissions officers could scour the internet to research top candidates. Yet, Greenberg gave it a shot anyway, and his TikTok spot went viral and helped his business gain immediate traction and profitability. Incidentally, he was accepted to most colleges and now attends Brown University.

2. Fear of failure.

Sometimes this fear can be so paralyzing it freezes us into a permanent state of inaction. By definition, innovators and disrupters craft something that is totally new. But there's no guarantee others will accept the creation; it may be rejected altogether, or it may just never find success. Auburn University basketball coach Bruce Pearl told me during a one-on-one interview, "The hard truth is if we're not failing, every once in a while, it means we're not pushing boundaries." Innovators routinely get out of their comfort zones. They know failure is part of the innovation process. Innovators are far more afraid of getting stuck in routines and never trying new things. To them, stagnation is a conscious decision. Escaping their zone of familiarity opens them up to a new world of amazing possibilities. Coach Pearl's leadership, and ability to create a safe space for his players to get out of their comfort zones, is one reason why Auburn basketball is one of the top ranked teams in college basketball.

3. Fear of responsibility.

As Victor Frankl said in 1977, "To be aware of responsibility is to be aware of creating one's own self, destiny, and life predicament." If this is true, and we are able to achieve this level of self-consciousness, we must also be aware of our own pain and suffering that comes with added responsibility. This is a frightening concept, and it's eventually faced by all disrupters. The weight of the world is on the innovator who willingly assumes new responsibility. Often innovators and entrepreneurs start brand-new companies with thousands of employees who believe deeply in the mission and have skin in the game (equity). The founder is responsible for every employee.To cope with the added stress and anxiety that is part and parcel of responsibility, innovators need to create their own support system from scratch and find other ways to self-soothe. 

Georgia Messinger, for example, started a successful mental health startup before being accepted to Harvard University. To help her cope with the stress of being a full-time student and a hard-working entrepreneur she created her own personal network of coaches, advisors, and friends who helped her discuss and analyze personal challenges and anxieties. She also initiated honest, open discussions with other students facing similar challenges - much like group therapy - to discuss practical solutions to common anxieties.  "Just getting these fears out in the open, and recognizing that we're not alone, was a great start," according to Messinger.

Next week in my column I'll address several more silent killers including: fear of making tough decisions, fear of being vulnerable, fear of being alone, and the ultimate fear -- going crazy! And if you have other thoughts, let me know here.