Fear. Every leader faces it, and must make a decision on what he will do when faced with any number of fears. Fear is a natural reaction to something new, different, or from change that is occurring in an area of our life.
As leaders, we can either succumb to fear or we can look fear in the face and see the opportunity lying within. We have a choice when faced with new roles and the many obstacles we will confront. We can see the challenge and the potential for both others’ and our growth, or we can attempt to hide and let other people pass us by.
I’ve been guilty of giving in to fear many times in my life. In fact, my fear often keeps me from writing or putting myself out there (at least for a while). Here are some things that I’ve done, and you can do too, to overcome fear and move forward both personally and professionally.
Uncover the root of your fear.
Before you can tackle your fear, you need to know where it’s rooted. Fear is typically rooted in one of a few areas. Once you know where the root is, then you can begin to overcome it.
Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of making the wrong decision? Fear of change? Fear of responsibility? Insecurity?
Take a moment to reflect on where the fear is coming from. In his book, The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss comments, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” Look at what you fear most, where it’s rooted, and make a decision to begin to confront it.
Confront Your Fear.
There is a technique among psychologists known as exposure therapy. Essentially, by exposing yourself to the thing that you’re afraid of (bit by bit), you retrain your brain to limit its fear response.
Once you know where your fear is rooted, you can retrain your brain by confronting your fear. This is something that can be done gradually. Remember the movie, What About Bob?
I’ve never been a big fan of heights (insert huge understatement here!) However, when I moved to Boston after I graduated from college, I had an opportunity to learn to rock climb. If you know anything at all about rock climbing, you know those two things don’t mix very well.
I had a decision to make. I could go on living with my fear, or I could learn to rock climb and confront my fear. I decided to confront my fear, and not only did I have the opportunity to rock climb, but because I overcame my fear, I was able to become a high ropes course and zip line facilitator at a camp in Seattle.
The next time you’re confronted with fear, decide to face it head on, push through, and take a risk. You may surprise yourself.
Surround yourself with like-minded people.
In my experience as both a leader and a pastor, this is something that often gets neglected in people’s lives, much less in the life of a leader.
Leading is often a lonely road, and when the fear hits, it can often seem insurmountable. It’s hard enough facing fear itself; it’s even worse when you feel like you’re the only one who is struggling.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people does several things:
- They know where you’re coming from and how you feel.
- They can support and encourage you.
- They can help provide strength to push you through the tough spots.
When you know others have been where you are and have made it through, it quiets the fear. When you see that you have a community of people that support and encourage you, the fear of failure diminishes. When you don’t feel like you have the strength in overcoming fear, you have people that you can lean on to help you through the rough patches.
As you grow as a leader, these 3 strategies can help you overcome fear and move on to greater heights of leadership. Fear will always be there, but know that you have a choice to confront and defeat any fear that you will face. And maybe (I hope) you will join me on top of the mountain!
What fears have you faced and overcome as a leader? What techniques have you used to overcome them? Let me know in the comments below!