What Leaders Fear...And How to Overcome It
With just a few days until Halloween, Phil Dourado offers some insights into leadership, fear and courage in this short article on Evan Carmichael.com...
Here's a 60 second version...
What People Fear
In a Canadian poll probing irrational anxieties, pollster Allan Gregg asked, “If someone told you something was safe and someone else told you it was unsafe, which one would you believe?”
He found that an astonishing “68 percent would accept the message of doom and gloom” without questioning who was telling them and what they were talking about. (1)
Leaders fear failure.
Ask leaders to talk about change, and this primal fear will rise to the surface.
“I was scared to death. It was terrifying. I literally had nightmares. I was supposed to be director of engineering, but there were so few of us that they made me director of operations,” (2) said Intel employee number 3, Andy Grove, who had to teach himself how to morph from engineer to leader. Grove is now one of America’s most admired business leaders.
This is a good thing: people with no fear are reckless. The important thing for leaders is not to be fearless, but to overcome fear.
QUESTION: Has there been a time in your life that you’ve had to overcome a fear in order to get where you wanted to go?
JOHN KOTTER, LEADERSHIP GURU: Oh, yeah! Not only one time. Good heavens! At one point, I had an extraordinarily difficult boss who could literally drive you to tears. And it was easy to convince yourself to allow the fear that naturally arose to, if not paralyze you, certainly greatly restrict what you did, and the risks you were willing to take. And I think coming to grips with that was not an easy one.
Fear makes you hide vulnerabilities and close down. The opposite of this, and what leaders must pursue, is trust and love, which reveals vulnerabilities.
When you trust your own abilities and those of the people around you, you overcome fear.
Warren (Bennis) says that if you look back you will find that great leaders have commonly been through one or more major difficulties in their life and that they were, essentially, forged in the heat of that crucible – that they emerged stronger as a leader.
The same is true of fear of failure. Once you have failed and know it doesn't destroy you, you can choose to get up and try again.
Copyright © Phil Dourado
Phil Dourado is The Leadership Hub founder. He's the author of two leadership books. Phil and his team run an online leadership community of practice for one of the world's largest companies.