If you are a leader or you wanna be a leader but you operate from fear, it will kill your leadership. You are not a credible leader and you have no business leading others. By definition fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Another definition says it is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; As a leader, confidence is your friend, fear is your enemy. Even if you are uncertain about the decisions you make, fear has to be squashed or people can’t follow you.
I have begun another year of working with potential leaders. Training them for full-time ministry. Each one of my students has the opportunity to be the student leader throughout the nine-month program. Many of these new, young leaders are afraid. I’m not sure they are afraid to lead as much as they are afraid to make a mistake. They want to get it right if for no reason but to avoid correction from me. Yet correction is good. Especially when you are being trained. There is no safer place for a novice leader than to have a teacher, trainer, coach to guide them through the speed bumps and train wrecks that often come when you are leading, whether you are a novice or not.
As I remember all that happened 10 years ago on September 11th, one thing was sure, the leadership in this country had resolve and determination that we as a nation could move on and that our enemies would be more fearful of us in the days to come than the fear they evoked in this nation. I am not sure about the fear we evoke in our enemies 10 years later, however I am hopeful for us as a country. I remember when nations feared America. They had a healthy respect for us when I was younger. I’m not so sure today – but I am hopeful.
As a leader the best options you have when fear creeps in – and it will – is to face it head on. Running from it or pretending it is not real for you, won’t save you. Facing your fear means acknowledging that you are afraid. Where and how you acknowledge it is important. Those you are leading should rarely see it, if ever. Trusted advisers and mentors are my recommendation. What ever you do, don’t push it down. Fear like many other strong emotions has a way of leaking out of us when we least expect it. So face it and then move forward. Action is a great equalizer and has a great way of helping you move past fear. Do something…, Make a decision…, but don’t sit in your fear and allow it to paralyze you.
I tell my students, “I would rather you make a wrong decision, than no decision.” Do something, say something even if it is the wrong something. If it doesn’t work, move on to the next thing. That is leadership. I don’t always have the right answer. I don’t always know what I should do in any given situation I find myself, however I am very good at assessing my options, engaging others to give me input so that I can make an informed decision and keep things moving.
Fear of Failure is a huge obstacle for leaders, whether you are a novice or a seasoned leader. Failure isn’t fun, but it is a great place to gain experience so that you become more effective in your leadership. If you are afraid to fail, you can’t lead. Failure is part of the leadership diet. You aren’t going to get it right all the time, however, you can gain a ton of experience that goes a long way when leading people. Inventor Roger Von Oech says “the benefits from failures are twofold: first, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”
For Novices or For Seasoned Leaders: When fear creeps in and you don’t know what to do – Take Action! Being paralyzed with fear will erode your credibility with those who are following you. Talk to a mentor or trusted adviser and then take action. If you stop moving because of fear it will be hard to begin again.
Lastly the Bible tells us that God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. A sound mind is the key. Most fear is born in our minds, whether the fear is real or imagined – it hijacks us none the less. Get your head in the right place, develop a clear plan of “attack” and move forward! Enjoy your journey!