Never let fear determine your action. Absorb, reflect, and respond.
Building on the first article in this series, I wanted to explore what fear means within the leadership role.
Let’s be clear, leadership isn’t a title, it’s a role. That role can be professional or personal. You may lead people by design, meaning your role within an organization requires you to. Or you may lead by influence, something developed over time based on your expertise and relationship with others. The two are not mutually exclusive.
As a leader, you owe it to yourself and others to master fear and keep this powerful emotion on a tight leash. Fear, like all emotions, is meant to be a state of action, not a state of being. An emotion should drive you into action, not lock you in paralysis. However, an emotional over-reaction isn’t in your best interest; it will not drive success in your goals.
You have goals, right?
Fear being an emotional state you cannot ignore and rarely avoid, leaders must learn how to use fear to their personal benefit by recognizing it quickly.
- When faced with something new or unpleasant do you assume a negative consequence?
- Is that negative consequence based off of logical or empirical evidence, or anecdotal evidence?
- What can you do to mitigate any risks? What contingency plans can you make?
- Why aren’t you taking action? No, avoidance isn’t taking action.
No company grows based on what’s been done before.
No relationship grows without exploration.
No one learns without doing something completely new and different… outside their comfort zone.
Leaders must recognize fear and work through it, regardless of their level of comfort. Ever meet that leader that is nearly fearless? They take risks that seem crazy or absurd? You know they’re going to fail, but they move forward anyway? They’re quick to make decisions and happy with the speed in which they move. Naturally fearless people are rare, and they’re not completely fearless, they just have a high risk tolerance and are very resilient when it comes to change.
As a leader, you need to adapt to this. You need to see that fear is a liar and kick its ass.
- You’ve recognized fear (based on the above bullets), and you need to take action
- Consider all the possible outcomes (consequences), unless it’s death it can be fixed
- Create a quick risk management plan… know your mitigation steps and your contingency plans (mitigation= how to avoid or lessen the effect of the risk, contingency= how to deal with a consequence if a risk is realized)
- Understand you may fail, and failure is okay, it’s how humans grow (babies fall a lot before they learn to walk well). Accept failure as an option and assume it in your risk planning
- This is not a week-long process (usually), and your goal is to manage fear and take action right away. The longer you wait the more likely to lose the element of time. Time is the only asset you can never recover. Furthermore, you may lose some of your options.
When I speak about “Absorb, reflect, and respond” many clients take reflection either as something that needs a great deal of consideration, or none at all. Many don’t absorb, most don’t reflect, almost all respond. There’s an art to finding balance in absorbing information and reflecting on it. Practice will help, coaching will expedite your success.