Fearless leader? Forget it.
No business leader is without some form of fear. Fear of lack, loss, limitation or liability in some form. Not enough capital, losing a major customer, delays in launching a critical product and owing payment to a large vendor are a few anxiety amplifiers for leaders. Even the best leaders.
Fear freezes action. It cripples creativity, demoralizes teams, and can threaten the survival of good organizations and businesses. Sitting in fear just makes it worse and delays the inevitable: action.
“When thinking won’t cure fear, action will.”– W. Clement Stone, businessman, author
Admit it — at least to yourself. And sometimes it is good to mention it to another person. A counsellor, a spouse, a trusted friend, a mentor. Dislodge fear. Rational fear occurs when we are facing physical danger and need to get away from harm.
But most fear is based upon past events that are likely no longer relevant. Which is irrational.
Irrational fear can harm us as well. It can cause great emotional and physical stress. Worse, it fuels burnout. We are living in the problem, not the solution. Get real.
Lights, camera, action
How do great leaders deal with fear? Here are some actions that they take:
Don’t sit on your greatest asset— get up and get going; lay out a plan of action; establish priorities and milestones; delegate actions to trusted team members; hold frequent progress meetings; turn fear around and win. Fast.
Get rid of the stress– get some exercise, breathe, meditate, rest up; spend some time with family and friends; watch a hilarious movie; keep doing these things to ward off irrational responses to future irrational stress. Prevention.
Do not run away– even if you feel like it; facing fear head-on is the time-tested antidote; remember that during WWII President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we need to fear is fear itself.” True.
Ask for help– most employees are happy to help resolve issues, including big ones; if you show fear, they will become fearful – if you show fearlessness, so will they. Contagious.
Do not broadcast fear– employees are “fear sensitive,” and if the they detect it in their leaders, they will become fearful, making things worse; instead, admit a problem and then engage everyone to help solve it. Fearlessly.
Revisit the vision– fear can be the result of losing track of the target — forgetting the vision that propels you and your business; spend time with your vision; re-affirm your path to success. Energizing.
Above all, believe in yourself and in a trusted power-partner. Divine Providence. Everything is going to be OK. OK?
Actually, it was Alan Mulally. In 2006 he became the new CEO of Ford Motor. Two years later GM and Chrysler were begging Congress for bailout money to avoid a recessionary bankruptcy. Mulally declined federal alms, fearlessly faced reality, simplified the business, and by 2009 earned a $2.7 billion profit. CNN quoted him, “If this is the reality, what are we going to do about it?” Action.
The bottom lines
Sweating a problem? Don’t wait long. Sitting in fear only prolongs the angst and agony. Take action. Affirm your vision. Build a get-well plan and get going. Do not poison your team by showing your fear. Show your fearlessness.
Tom Zender is a Phoenix-based professional CEO mentor. He held leadership roles at General Electric, Honeywell, and small-midsize companies. Zender has served on NASDAQ and TSE listed corporate boards. He is the author of four books about business leadership. Tom mentors faculty and students at Arizona State University’s SkySong new business incubator. Contact him at 949-910-5075, [email protected], or www.tomzender.com