The Impact of Fear

The weeks following our 2016 election have been interesting ones.  I have been deeply aware of the variety of responses exhibited by those experiencing fear due to the outcome of our election. 

  • Some withdraw.  Claiming to be “done” with politics and proclaiming an intention to simply proceed, head down, waiting out the next four years.  
  • Some yell.  Using social media and other outlets to share anger and hurt, hurling insults at those who don’t see things the same way.
  • Some draw a line in the sand.  Refusing to engage with friends and family members who see things differently. “Unfriending” anyone with an alternate point of view.
  • Some grieve.  Overwhelmed by emotion and stuck in the pain, unable to see a way to move forward.

And what I recognize is these same things happen to leaders when they are experiencing fear. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • This conversation isn’t going the way I expected and I fear the outcome will not be what I want.  I am simply going to stop participating in the conversation now.  I’ll be quiet.
  • I don’t feel heard by my colleagues and I fear my opinion isn’t valued here.  I am just going to have to get louder until someone pays attention to me and understands what I am trying to say.
  • I simply can’t communicate with this person on this topic.  I know I’m right and I fear they will get their way.  I will avoid this subject all together or find another way to get it done without collaboration.
  • I simply can’t bring positive energy or enthusiasm to this project anymore.  I fear the direction we’re going in and how the changes will impact me or others.  I’ll keep showing up but my disappointment will leak out anytime this topic comes up.

In my experience, this is some of the hardest work of leading.  To find a way to acknowledge our fears and to hold space for them without reverting to one of these responses.  To continue to lead ourselves and others with positive energy and openness.  

I know it's hard. But, the good news is that it gets easier - if you practice. In fact, I put together this handy worksheet that I use with my clients to help them conquer their fears. Feel free to download it, use it, and give it to your friends and colleagues. I promise that if you practice outlining your fears, you'll soon be able to handle them like a champ.

Fear exists.  It pops up in the most unlikely and unexpected ways.  How you handle it is the true test of leadership.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to act in the presence of fear.
— Bruce Lee