Leadership is scary

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Fear. That’s what I want to close my week talking about – facing your fears.

First Lady and U.S. Diplomat Eleanor Roosevelt said it’s possible to grow through facing your faces and doing things outside of your zone. For leaders, it’s imperative, because, let’s face it, leadership is scary.

It’s scary to make big decisions. It’s scary to set a strategy for a company, whether it’s 20 employees or 20,000 employees. They’re all counting on you. It’s scary to be responsible for profitability, operations, talent, and innovation. The competitive global marketplace is scary, too!

Leaders have to embrace action and decisiveness. In a great article in Forbes, correspondent Chris Cancialosi writes that leaders and entrepreneurs are fearful and gives some great insight into managing the fears, such as knowing you’re not alone, that fear doesn’t have to be your enemy, that you can stop and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

In my view, the reality is that unless we are feeling some uncertainty, unless we are risking our comfort, we cannot grow as leaders. So, how can you manage your natural fears as you lead your people?

First, rely on your team. Listen to them. Really listen. Ask them questions. They will embrace an opportunity to teach you and to help you set the course for success. Everyone wants to be part of something successful, everyone wants to make his or her unique contribution that can be recognized or rewarded. And, bonus: You build a stronger team with more depth.

Second, build a culture that supports the Freedom to Fail. If your organization is not testing itself, is not innovating, is not staying competitive, you will establish a culture of mediocrity. Best to encourage your team to try and fail. A failure isn’t the end. It’s a beginning. What did we learn? What do we do moving forward? Should we develop an alternative strategy? Teams working in the Freedom to Fail culture will become agile, gain an ability to ideate alternative solutions to complex problems, and share more ideas with those around them.

Third, be brave in acknowledging your fears or concerns. Think about what the fear really is, talk about the fear with the team. It strengthens a group to know that their leader shares their very real concerns about the future and is willing to openly discuss those. It’s a relationship builder in your culture.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Push through your fear and you’ll find a stronger leader on the other side.