Fear is an emotion that everyone feels many times throughout their lives—and often at inconvenient or expected moments. Even highly experienced leaders encounter this saboteur while executing routine leadership tasks. By learning how to understand and manage that fear, leaders can avoid being paralyzed by it and will therefore be ready and able to lead effectively.
The first step of managing fear is recognizing the indications of its presence and understanding how it manifests. Often it’s accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches or sweaty palms. In uncomfortable moments people often sense such bodily changes. The key is to connect them to a feeling of fear and identify their causes.
Consultation with a Trusted Adviser
Sometimes people struggle to understand what they are afraid of, so they ask a colleague, friend, boss, or coach to help them. It’s time for someone to reach out for help when:
- “something” is preventing them from making healthy decisions,
- they feel “stuck” and can’t make progress (and feel as though they’re being swallowed by quicksand),
- they struggle to get through ordinary daily actions and choices, or
- their thoughts are dominated by negative chatter.
Looking at fear through a different and creative lens can help people see new ways of moving out of their paralysis. They can imagine being an animal, for example, or perhaps a famous person or someone they admire, and then let that new perspective guide them through the fear. (This can be an eye-opening exercise to do with a coach.)
Saying goodbye to the causes of frustration and paralysis is one way to bury fear. This kind of goodbye can take many possible forms. For example, someone might write about their fear on a piece of paper and then put the document away on a shelf or rip it up. Or perhaps someone might resolve not to live with that fear any longer and announce that intention either to themself (while looking in a mirror) or to a person who is personally or professionally important to them.
The final step in ending fear is to commit to taking new actions. Imagining how they will behave differently and reflecting on what they have learned (and celebrating those successes) can help someone achieve more success on their leadership journey. Once their fear has been identified, addressed, and conquered, a leader will be better prepared to handle the challenges and become the best leader they can be.