Many Confident Leaders Resist Change — And These 5 Emotional Wounds Could Be to Blame

Mar 7, 2024 | 0 comments

resistance to change
[Photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio]

First published on on 03.06.24

Confidence can be an effective leadership trait, and assertive self-confidence requires getting ahead of limiting beliefs to achieve what we desire or deem successful. But what if a leader’s confidence is actually just one of the masks that help them assimilate in groups where power dynamics call for boldness and strength?

How could that mask of confidence work against them and hinder the success of an organization when a leader is afraid of change?

Five Soul Wounds

Rejection, abandonment, humiliation, betrayal and injustice are the five soul wounds often passed down to us by our parents, following us from childhood into adulthood. While first identified by an American physician and psychiatrist, a Canadian therapist wrote about them in her book and brought the research to the masses. The transference of wounds from generation to generation is actively discussed on social media, podcasts, and in other books like Heal to Lead.

Let’s break down each of the five primary wounds as they apply to low-conscious or unhealed leadership.

1. Rejection

Leaders with the wound of rejection might withdraw from situations or discreetly avoid them altogether for fear of being rejected. Their ability to work anchors them in reality, which starkly contrasts the many ways in which they prefer to escape. Their people-pleasing tendencies are a means of self-protection, which can manifest as perfectionism and not asking for help in leadership roles.

2. Abandonment

Leaders with the wound of abandonment project a type of sadness that is almost indefinable, as their deepest fear is loneliness. To combat the inner strife that causes mood changes, they can seem dependent on others, seeking advice and support to keep themselves in center focus. Compliments are a natural reward for overgiving, and if those are in short supply, leaders with wounds of abandonment may create drama to receive attention differently.

3. Humiliation

Deep feelings of shame accompany the wound of humiliation. For wounded leaders, this might show up as humility and taking care of others. They keep themselves busy because they fear freedom — associated with the absence of limits and engaging in too much fun, pleasure, or the like. These wounded leaders often tend toward self-deprecation to make others laugh; in this way, they control who humiliates them and to what extent.

4. Betrayal (linked to Abandonment)

The wound of betrayal shows up most often in people-controlling leaders because control is the mask they wear to avoid separation and denial. In demonstrating a lack of trust in others, these wounded leaders disempower those around them by setting standards impossibly high to ensure failure. Though unconscious, these authoritarian leaders are out to prove their perceived value by stepping on, manipulating, and mandating that others do things precisely how they would.

5. Injustice (pairs with Rejection)

Leaders with an injustice wound also tend toward people-pleasing, but the difference is in pretending that nothing impacts them. They refuse help and would rather run themselves into the ground than admit that they’re tired or angry. In not wanting to be treated unfairly, they can project that onto others without realizing it. Everything must be justified, even if it means exaggerating or outright lying.

Resistance to Change

So, how do these soul wounds correlate to a strong resistance to change? Wounded leaders often employ unconscious survival strategies to ensure their worst fears don’t materialize. In the face of uncertainty of any kind — where their safety could potentially be at risk — low-conscious leaders dig their heels into what will protect their ego, even if the change at hand would benefit their organization.

Change can be stressful and even terrifying for most people, but add the layer of a soul wound, and it can feel like life or death — because that’s how the ego perceives it.

When leaders are unaware of these unhealed aspects of themselves, those around them can suffer unnecessarily when on the receiving end of unhealed projections, from an organizational perspective, that can lead to higher employee attrition, a negative impact on morale and overall culture, and a plateau in revenue and innovation.

When they feel resistance to change arises, the best thing leaders can do is to take radical responsibility for their own trauma integration. They can start with small steps that develop self-awareness, like listening to podcast episodes or reading books on the topic, or perhaps talking with a trauma-informed therapist or coach.

If they won’t do it for themselves (at first), they can think about how many others will benefit from their inner work. From family members to business partners, employees, clients, and community members — when leaders do the work, they become more adaptable to change. As a result of their improved abilities to self-regulate, embrace curiosity, and make decisions for the good of the whole, their organizations grow more flexible to meet uncertainty with ease.



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Kelly L. Campbell

Kelly (they/she) is a Trauma-Informed Conscious Leadership Coach to self-aware visionaries, a keynote speaker and a sponsored podcast host. They are the founder of Consciousness Leaders, the world’s most diverse speaker’s agency. Her debut book on trauma and leadership, entitled Heal to Lead, will be available Spring 2024 (Wiley). Sign up for pre-launch notifications here.


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