President Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
I was never really sure if that was completely reassuring, but it was a line that kept America going in the throes of World War Ii and the Great Depression – both of which America came out victorious.
But when you are running a business generally, or overseeing a workplace safety protocol more specifically, President Roosevelt’s sentence is truly not that encouraging. Why? Because fear can be a more powerful enemy than anything you might ever face.
Think about it. Fear is an emotion, and emotion is intangible and sometimes hard to control and it’s often quite irrational and unpredictable. The things you probably should fear are things that are often logical, somewhat predictable and controllable, and are completely rational.
And when running a business or some part of a business, fear can be severely unproductive and counterintuiitive to everything you want to accomplish. There is little doubt that to make a business or a protocol grow and be successful, there needs to be bold moves and changes to progress, and fear of making changes or making any moves whatsoever will paralyze your business an stunt its growth. David Dye wrote a recent piece in Professional Safety magazine that discusses the destructive power of fear and how it can cripple leadership in an organization – in 11 different ways.
Fortunately, Dye doesn’t just do the public service of spelling out the 11 ways that fear puts an organization into paralysis; he does go on to mention several action steps that can be taken to work past or through the fear that, while irrational, can be normal – as long as it’s not so overwhelming that leaders can’t breathe.
Dye starts his article with a quick introduction talking abut a familiar question he has been internally considering, which has come about from interactions with those who attend the various business and leadershp conference at which he speaks.
He asks himself, with all the great leadership knowledge and intelligence that is available to leaders and managers in business, why are they still in business? If every businss leader wants and intends to lead well and actually does it, these leadership mentors would no longer have to work and speak about leadership.
So if all these people ar truly listening and enjoying what they are hearing from these leaders, why aren’t they leading themselves? Dye came up with three possible reasons for the disconnect, and any leader could claim just one of them.
- There are leaders who may know the why, but they don’t kow the how.
- Leaders know the how, but they are scared.
- Leaders know the how, but they are proud.
There is nothing wrong with having fears and being fearful. It is part of human nature. However, Dye says that if we let our fears dominate everything we do, then nothing will get done, or we’ll take shortcuts that will end up causing compulsion from the rank=and-file, rather than influence, which will likely turn off workers from buy-in to what you are trying to achieve.
The next post will dive into the 11 ways that Dye says fear has an adverse effect on leadership in an organization. And when this affects leadership in general, you have to believe it will affect safety in that workplace as well. That is what makes this so important for us to consider Tuesday.