By Laurie Cure, Ph.D.

 “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”  ~George Addair

What are you afraid of right now, at this very moment in time?

When I asked leaders that question last month, I heard a range of responses. 

  • I am afraid of becoming even more isolated and depressed, but I can’t show any of that to my team or colleagues. 
  • I am afraid of losing connection to those important to me.
  • I am afraid of losing my job and not being able to find another one.
  • I worry I can never return to the way it was and I worry more that I don’t want to.
  • I find myself seeing the faces of my dying patients and I fear I will never be able to move past the trauma of what I see everyday. 
  • I wonder if my kids can recover from the losses they are experiencing this year in school and with friends. 
  • I started a new job and I worry that no one really likes or respects me.
  • I feel like I am wasting precious time in my life and I am afraid I will not ever become what I desire.
  • I often feel like I don't know what I am doing, in leadership, in work or at home. Who made me a leader anyway and what if I screw up everyone around me? 

 

Nearly 20 years of my life has been dedicated to researching, understanding, learning and teaching about emotions and specifically, the emotion of fear. Fear exists in the very nature of our humanity. Fear comes in various shapes and sizes and requires us to bring forth a courage, strength, and perseverance that we seldom access without it. Each of us experiences fear differently based on specific circumstances we encounter, values and personality differences we hold, as well as, the way things that are important to us are threatened. 

Ed Litton says, “Fear is just a call to exercise courage”. In our Inspiring Leadership Conversation booklet collection, we invite leaders to explore courage as a way to navigate fear. As leaders, we hold a great responsibility for ourselves and others. We balance the needs of the organization against those of our teams and work diligently to merge the two in an effort to achieve alignment. While leadership is some of the most rewarding work you will do, it does not come without its challenges. Recognizing and processing our fears and those of our team members becomes integral to success.

As you seek to evoke courage in overcoming fear, I invite you to reframe both fear and courage. When the two words are used together, an image is portrayed of courage conquering fear. In reality, fear is never destroyed. It morphs and takes new forms. Often, our most courageous acts in navigating fear ask us to use it as a mirror, reflecting our deepest desires and required actions. Courage then takes form and becomes the effort and energy to act. 

As leaders, we hold our fears and the fears of those around us. Parents know this well as they hold the fears for and of their children. Organizational leaders hold the fears of entire companies and national leaders hold the fears of the whole country. While we feel we need to carry this ”burden”, we can lighten our load by allowing ourselves to be guides, like an escort on the journey, as opposed to needing to be the authority or one who holds all the answers. 

 

As a leader, we invite you to evoke courage. Use the following tactics.

  • Embrace and understand your own fears and their impact on you and your team. Insights arise from reflection and give you the courage to act. 
  • Model behaviors of authenticity and vulnerability. 
  • Be transparent with your own fears and be open to hearing and understanding the fears of others.
  • Assess the risks and move forward thoughtfully. . .  but move forward nonetheless. 
  • Plan for what you can and surrender the rest. Fear thrives in uncertainty. The more you can take back pieces of control, the more courageous you become. 
  • Maintain perspective. Fear shows up like your deepest concerns in the middle of the night. Fears are actually not as great as they feel in the moment. 

 

In my book, Leading without Fear, I offer some deeper strategies to support you in navigating fear. Courage is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. When we call forth our own courage, we invite others to do the same. 

 

We can be brave and afraid at the same time, but when we evoke the courage to act, we soar beyond our fears. These are the moments when we look back and realize that our fear served as a catalyst for some of our greatest moments. 

 

My life’s work centers around helping people make meaning of their emotions and their stories. If you were touched or inspired by anything in this article, please share your thoughts.