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drjvm - core values

Be Honest. Be open. Be fearless. Be humble. Be real.

The Human Leader

Be Fearless

Over 5 posts, we explore the “Be” statements that comprise the pillars of The Human Leader.

This week we look at Be Fearless.

[shareable cite=”Dr. Theo Tsaousides” width=”100%”]Fear keeps you confined in the cage of security.[/shareable]

My good friend Dr. Theo Tsaousides (tsow-see-dees), claims that virtually everything we are today has at some point in our lives has been influenced by fear. “Every step of the way, at some point, fear plays a role. Either it keeps us confined to the familiar… or it pushes us so that we can cross the boundaries, broaden our horizons, get outside of the boxes.”

I agree with Dr. Tsaousides that a large majority of our decisions are influenced in one way or another by fear. It can hold us back or push us forward. I am also convinced that using our fear well can be the difference between success and failure.

Fear has long been regarded as one of six primary emotions (more recently some researchers are combining sadness with disgust and surprise with fear, but that is a debate for a different day).  For clarity, we are using the classic definition of fear as the “reaction to the perception of external danger, viz., harm that is expected and foreseen.” (Freud, 1920). That perception may or may not be based in reality, but it is entirely “real” to the person experiencing the emotion.

Of course, fear serves an extremely valuable role in self-preservation. When we are running from lions and tigers and bears, (oh my!), we need an internal system, ramping up our adrenaline, giving us the extra energy to fight or flee.

Being a leader also involves fear. While we aren’t under attack from animal predators (with the notable exception of the human variety), how often does it feel like we are fighting for our lives in our businesses?  I venture to say pretty dang often. And our limbic system doesn’t make a distinction between a bear on the mountain trail and a “Wolf of Wall Street.” Both threats trigger the same internal physical, mental and emotional response.

So, like Be Honest and Be Open, there is both the external  and the internal component. External threats from competition, quality issues, over-zealous regulators, unhappy customers or what ever. And internal threats such as uncertainty, insecurity, self-worth, etc.

I dare say most leaders struggle with internal fears and doubt as much, if not more, than external. “Is this the right decision?”, “Can I do this?”, “Will I fail and take everyone down with me?”, and on and on.

Leaders deal with these fears in different ways.  Some put up a false bravado, always appearing to be sure of every decision and direction. Some hide behind second tier leaders, ready to blame or sacrifice those leaders if something goes wrong. And others simply never acknowledge a mistake has been made and stay the course until the ship sinks.

Human Leaders, however, do something very different. Human Leaders experience the same fears and trials, AND they strive to understand those fears. They look at the basis of the fear, i.e. what is behind it. Is it a valid fear? Is it based on very real dangers that need to be addressed, or is it something going on inside of themselves that is causing the fear.

Then, after determining all this, the Human Leader develops and executes plans to overcome the valid “threats”, and addresses the invalid or incorrectly perceived threats (often our own internal fears) and overcomes those as well.

The key is becoming better at distinguishing between real and imagined threats, developing and executing the plans, and overcoming our internal limitations.

As a leader becomes better and better at those things, he or she leads out of strength, authenticity, honesty and openness and at the same time, becomes more human.

And that, my friend, is what The Human Leader means by Be Fearless. Not that their are no fears at all, but rather that those fears are continually worked on and ultimately overcome.

In future posts, we will delve deeper into some ways to make those distinctions, as well as ways to overcome our internal fears.


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