If you've ever worked with an insecure leader, you understand the problem of insecurity--and the damage it can do.

The trick is to discover and intercept the warning signs of insecurity within yourself. It's a necessary effort because, no matter how you think you are perceived on the outside, insecurity always shows.

Do any of these signs sound familiar?

1. Shying away from challenges

When you're insecure, you don't like to take risks because you lack confidence in your ability to succeed. You do not share information freely because you know communication is a form of empowerment. You may be defensive toward new challenges and not very communicative overall.

2. Positioning yourself to look good

If you're more concerned about how you look than how your people are doing, about your own passion rather than how your team is functioning, about how you are presented rather than how well the mission is being met, you are not being a leader. And the most likely cause is insecurity.

3. Aversion to helping others grow

Insecure leaders see people as working for them, not with them. They feel jealous when someone on their team receives public affirmation, and they are not mentioned. When you invest in the growth of those around you, you are equipping them to be better, smarter, and quicker--a threatening idea to the insecure.

4. Disrespect for others

When you're insecure, you work hard to gain respect for yourself--sometimes even by belittling others to put yourself ahead. If you feel inadequate, disrespecting others can help elevate your own status.

5. Being a know-it-all

Insecure leaders are petrified of coming across as insignificant or incompetent, so they overcompensate by pretending they know it all. They rarely ask questions--and when they do, they almost never wait for the answer.

6. Staying behind a closed door

If you tend to keep a safe distance from your employees, constituents, clients, or followers, you may be harboring a fear that your own inadequacies will be discovered. The same impulse may lead you to be highly controlling about personal information.

7. Refusing to handle conflicts

Insecure leaders are driven by wanting to be liked. They want everyone think well of them--all the time. They often refuse to handle conflicts and they shy away from delicate issues out of fear that those on one side or the other will no longer like them.

Insecure leaders may mean well, but they shackle and constrain their people and themselves.

Giving in to insecurity is really another way of putting yourself first--an idea that goes against the heart of leadership.

We all have tendencies toward insecurity from time to time. But making sure you don't give in to damaging behavior born of insecurity will make you a far better leader, boss, and person.