Running Scared.

Everyone’s afraid of something.

Politicians are afraid they won’t be reelected. Business leaders are afraid they won’t “hit their numbers.” Managers are afraid their reports won’t perform, or they’ll lose their bonuses. Supervisors are afraid they’ll look bad if “they don’t have all of the answers.” Workers are afraid their workload, or their schedule, or their systems, or “who knows what” will change.

From top to bottom, fears abound at work, especially for those trying to lead.

Leaders can be fearful of holding people accountable or having difficult conversations. They may be afraid they can’t motivate their staff, or that they’ll be forced to explain poor results. Or that they’re in danger of losing the support of their bosses, or subordinates. Down deep, leaders may fear they no longer have the energy, or the interest to care about their people, or the job, as much as they once did. They fear failure, or the perception of such.

Fear is an impediment that is a self-fulling prophecy – which leads to poor performance (or at least, underperformance). It’s not a healthy emotion.

Our fears push us to act in our own self-interest – which is seldom good for the organization, or anybody else. They blind us to possibilities. They cloud our decisions. They cause us to question ourselves. They alter our mood. They ratchet up our stress, and negatively impact our health. They hurt us at work and we take them home. And, they do the same to the people we lead.

Stop Right There

Some of you are saying, “I don’t agree, because fear heightens awareness, alerts us to danger, motivates us to act. Fear brings out our competitive nature and drives us to reach our immediate goals. Fight or flight are strong survival instincts.”

OK. Live that way if you want. But I don’t want to work for you.

Living in a constant state of fear and tension is not good for the soul. We weren’t created to be that afraid.

Jim Fannin, author of ‘S.C.O.R.E.: The Five Keys to Optimum Achievement,’ says the secret formula for thinking like a champion includes “optimism, relaxation, and enjoyment” as essential aspects of performance. I believe he’s right. Doubt is disabling.

“My job is to do my job, and to enjoy doing my job, so I can come back tomorrow and do my job.” I overheard that statement from an emergency room doctor, describing his frustration with an over-bearing, overly-controlling, difficult new boss. Isn’t that the goal? To be set free to do the work?

Lead in a Positive Direction

I prefer leaders who are confident in and comfortable with themselves. The one’s who believe that things always work out in the end. Good things are in the process of happening. People will do their best and be their best when they work in a positive environment. We’ll be fine. We can move forward with the assurance we can meet our challenges without trepidation. We will succeed. Everything’s going to be OK. And we have nothing to fear.

Are you with me?

Don’t be afraid to lead this way.

– Jerry Strom


NEXT MONTH: “Running Scarred,” undoing the damage.

Twitter: @JerryRStrom. For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on research conducted within ‘Leadership Challenges: Developing Confidence in the Future,’ by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find short insights on Twitter at #LeadershipChallengesSurvey

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