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The Midweek Motivator – Are We Afraid, or Just Concerned?

Fear is as natural as sunlight. It engages us in our earliest days and hangs in the air over the rest of our lives, like a gargoyle sculpture on a gothic building. There are unlimited reasons to be afraid; some conscious, some not. Libraries are filled with concepts for dealing with fear. From Triskaidekaphobia, killer bees or public speaking, to the fear of failure (or success), everyone is some way, at some time, afraid.

An historic American Army General cautioned, “Never give council to your fears!” Well…we can’t all be George Patton or Norman Schwarzkoph approaching battles con brio. The stoic face and resilient posture works for some. Others must study their fears before defeating them. And some among us become literally imprisoned by fear, surrendering to the concertina wire of self-doubt, keeping us immobile, tentative and unfulfilled.

Many of our fears lie in our subconscious, usually hidden, yet remaining identifiable and ever-present. While we may not sense fear on the conscious level, even so, self-doubt sneaks up on us when we’re fatigued, or discouraged from temporary failure. For example, I fear in a given year that when attacking a challenge, I might disappoint someone. We all have these moments of self-examination, and in the after-assessment asking the question, “Did I do enough?”

Some Coach once quipped, “no one gives a darn about someone who finishes second (except for their wife or their Dog…and at that, they’d better have a great wife and a really good dog!”

These “Covidian” times test our endurance and strain our tolerance. Fear is what we allow it to be. It creeps into our fatigue and rolls around our subconscious; it’s cunning in its appearance, finding us when we’re most vulnerable. For those of us in leadership roles perhaps the most important question we can ask of ourselves lies with accepting that  while fear is natural, to be expected and above all, the higher our place in the organizational structure, the less we can afford to acknowledge fear or indecision.

Someone said, “90 percent of the world doesn’t care about our fears, and the other ten percent is glad we’re afraid!” So come to fear, we’re more or less on our own! True, this cavalier outlook might not be the healthiest from a purely clinical angle, but it is part of leadership. Kipling’s epic carries a line that says, “If you can keep your head when those about you are losing theirs…”

What then has fear-management taught us—from a Marine field commander to a frightened new recruit on his way to a skirmish? (1) Fear is normal, it is natural, and, it is a sign of healthy outlook. (2) Kipling’s verse applies: “if you can keep your head when those about you are losing theirs,” you’ve passed an important test in the process of leadership.

Accept that hesitation and frustration are a realistic component in the world of management. Fear is natural, to be expected, and manageable. Assess your fear level, keeping it in contained