Leadership For Life – Fear

By on February 18, 2014
Leadership For Life - Fear

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

The 1991 movie, Defending Your Life, starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep, has stuck with me for all the years since. The central premise of the film is that overcoming your fears is the ticket to a higher plane of existence. Alas, for many of us here on Earth, fear is one of the primary driving forces of our lives.

Maybe that’s what distinguishes great leaders from everyone else. When you look at the track records of many of those leaders described as “great,” one of the characteristics is their seeming fearlessness in the face of naysayers who resist taking the risks proposed by the leaders. Sure, you could argue that successful risk takers do their homework and minimize the bad consequences associated with risky behavior, but the very idea of doing “homework” about risks indicates that the fear of the risky behavior has somehow been conquered or mitigated.

So how does one overcome fear? Better yet, how does one use fear as a tool to forge ahead and bring about innovation?

Tony Robbins, the motivational guru, has suggested putting fear on a continuum. You can ask yourself, “What’s the thing I’m even more afraid of than the action?” Another approach suggested by Robbins is to put the fear into a cost/benefit analysis. “If I don’t face this fear, what’s it going to cost me?”

Sometimes we fear the opposite of what we think. Instead of fearing failure, some people actually fear success. Why fear success? It would take an army of psychoanalysts to figure that out for many people, but one obvious reason is that success means having people pay more attention to you. If you’re someone with self-esteem issues, you’d rather fly under the radar than call attention to yourself, even in a positive way.

Most of us know by now that one of the most common fears of people is making a public presentation. Speaking in public can bring even the bravest among us to a frozen stop. Since I make (some) of my living speaking in public, some people have asked me how I do it. My answer has been, “Know your stuff.” Being an expert on what you’re talking about relieves a lot of anxiety. On the other hand, even Lawrence Olivier suffered stage fright before nearly every live performance. Hey, I never said it was an exact science.

I don’t think I’m going to cover it all here. There are over 18 million Google results using the keywords “overcoming fear.” If you can just give it some thought, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of?” You’ll have taken an important step in the direction of conquering your fear or learning to use it in a productive way.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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