The Leadership-Fear Connection

By Eric Kaufmann
Feb 3, 2017

Let’s define leadership for a moment: Leaders guide and influence people to work toward a desirable future goal that has no guarantees. If the goal is easy, then mere project management will do, but when the goal is challenging (taking us into unfamiliar territory beyond our comfort zone), then leadership is required. The conditions of leading—newness and uncertainty—trigger our fears; in particular, our fears of pain, failure, rejection and humiliation. Jake was eager to make a difference in the lives of many men, and a growing team of trainers, but his fears were convincing him to stay safe.

I ask hundreds of leaders about their fears, and almost always they are ego- and relationship-based. See if you recognize yourself in these examples:

  • “I’m afraid I’ll let people down by failing.”
  • “I’m afraid I’ll be perceived as incompetent.”
  • “If I don’t provide, I’m afraid people won’t value me, and my friends will go away.”
  • “I’m afraid I will lose credibility.”
  • “I’m afraid of losing the respect and trust of my team and peers.”
  • “I’m afraid I will lose my authority and with it my ability to be effective and successful.”
  • “I worry that if I lose credibility as a leader, I’ll be rejected.”
  • “I’m afraid of failure, so I delay making difficult decisions till the last possible minute.”

Fear isn’t bad; saying that fear is bad is like saying the sun is bad because prolonged exposure can produce melanoma. Fear arises naturally in the mind and in the body.

Fortunately, so does courage. Courage simply means walking toward what you’d rather run away from. Learning to contain your fears and develop courage is critical for your success as a leader.

To read more about how to use imagery to improve performance, please see “Finding the Courage to Lead” in the online IDEA Library or in the June 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

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Eric Kaufmann

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