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Secret Fears of Great Leaders

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Franklin Roosevelt has a quote that encourages me whenever I read it. What he says is not a revolutionary insight, but an encouragement to those of us striving to lead with strength in trying times.

When life brings the inevitable challenges that every leader will face, we should remember this quote. Roosevelt says: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”Even a good leader gets scared, doubts his own capability, or wonders whether she has what it takes to lead others.

Good leaders are afraid at times. But they don’t let their fear cripple them. They learn how to work through it.

There’s an enormous pressure on leaders to have an answer for every situation. And when questions arise that they don’t have the answers to, they feel the demand of giving a quick response. They fear that others will question their qualifications or reassess their fitness to lead if they do not perform according to the expectations of others.

However, leaders can show their strength by fighting fear in three constructive ways.

One constructive way to handle your fear is to ask questions of your team.

There’s no better opportunity to learn, receive feedback, and improve your standing with others than to genuinely listen to what they have to say. The best forums are casual, like over a cup of coffee or in that moment when you stop by someone’s desk to get a pulse on what’s happening in their world.

Fight the expectation to be perfect

Being a leader means being resourceful, even with fear, and turning it into an opportunity. Great leaders know that they don’t have all the answers. There will be times when important decisions must be made on limited information. This is sometimes a recipe for mistakes, and that’s OK. Give yourself the room to be human, and yes, even fail on occasion. While you are leading others, do not hold yourself to a perfect standard. People may even respect you even more for just being human!

Examine your fear

Fear or anxiety usually act as symptoms of a deeper cause. Sometimes, you won’t have to look too far to find it. What are areas of insecurity for you as a leader? Are your fears related to some unfinished business that’s haunting you? There are many reasons for concern in our leadership—and some of them are unfounded—but it pays to consider the reasons why we are not at peace.

Maybe you’re concerned with repeating a past mistake, being misunderstood, or doing something that would cause others to question your fitness for leadership. Whatever the fear, tracing it back to a root cause can be hugely beneficial for your leadership. Because understanding your fears removes some of its power and secrecy, at this point you can begin considering healthy ways to work through it.

John Maxwell in his book “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn” has this great quote about resilience through fear or even failure:

“I always try to remember that I am a work in progress. When I maintain that perspective, I realize that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to have it all together. I don’t need to try to have all the answers. And I don’t need to learn everything in a day. When I make a mistake, it’s not because I’m a failure or worthless. I just didn’t do something right because I still haven’t improved enough in some part of the process. And that motivates me to keep growing and improving. If I don’t know something, it’s an opportunity to try to improve in a new area.”

Allow yourself room for improvement and the space you need to learn and grow as a leader. You will advance and your team will be stronger for it.

To your excellence in conquering fear,
Coach Greg

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