Leadership is not about being fearless. It’s about standing up to the fear and not letting it take your power.
In business, fear of change, fear of risk, fear of failure can seem like very real fears. But a leader should be able to stand in the face of this fear and do what is right for his team or for his company, and lead his group through the fear and to success on the other side.
Fear can cause professional paralysis if it is not faced down, and David Dye wrote about 11 signs that fear is compromising yoru leadership, in an article in Professional Safety magazine, which I have been recapping here and here. Now that we covered that fear does exist even in the best leaders, and we’ve covered the 11 ways that fear can grip a leader and render him or her a non-leader, we can now move forward and give you the eight tactics you can use as a leader to take back your power from the fear that you so willingly gave up.
These aren’t easy, mind you, but getting power back from fear is necessary, especially if you want to remain a leader who garners respect and credibility from your team.
Don’t just listen to your team, but listen to your fear. Not to give it legitimacy, but understand that the fear isn’t about the fear – it’s telling you something. Figure out what it is through objective self-examination so you will better understand what exactly you need to address – because chances are, it’s not the fear but what the fear represents.
Do not let yourself be isolated or alone. Engage your team, connect with your members and get them engaged in problem-solving. You are the leader, so it’s not that everyone has an equal vote – too many cooks in the kitchen, after all – but having multiple minds working on the same issue can ease some of that fear. Strength in numbers.
Empower yourself. Take your own power back by simply going over two seemingly simple questions, that will help you focus on the priorities: What are the results I want? What can I do to get there? You know that “fear” is not the answer to either of these questions.
This is about understanding reality and knowing what is actually going on, and not buying into the perception. Fear tends to lead us to believe that some issues are bigger than they are, or that our team isn’t as competent as it is. Always look beyond what fear is trying to tell you and look at the reality of the situation for what it is. If you can allow yourself to take a step back, you’ll notice that you see a forest and not trees.
Give yourself grace. It truly is OK to make mistakes. Don’t let fear beat you up into believing that you have to always be perfect and make the right decision every time. Whatever your project or issue is, allow yourself freedom and grace to screw up. Just don’t waste a lot of time ruminating over it.
Just practice. You will have fears, and the best way to get good at overcoming them is to continually practice. The same goes with any other technical or life skill – practice always makes perfect.
It’s hard to think from fear to getting done what needs to be done. It’s not a large leap, nor should it be. Break it down into smaller steps, and ask yourself what is the smallest step you can take right now? Do that, then take the next small step. Baby steps are progress. Babies don’t step backward once they start walking.
You don’t have to be the superhero and do it all yourself. You are not weak or incompetent if you ask for help from your team members or others. What is weak is not asking for help when everyone knows you should have it or need it. Ask for help, ask questions about the best way to get something done, and don’t be afraid to delegate.
Understanding how fear works and why it works can give you the power you need to disable it and cripple its capacity to cripple you as a leader.