Facing Your Leadership Fears

93980969All have experienced it. The rapid heart rate. The increased blood pressure. The tightening of muscles. Primal. Instinctive. Fear. In the face of potential danger, the brain sends out messages for chemicals like adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol to be released into the blood stream. Identified has the “fight or flight” response, it’s simply the body’s way of protecting itself. Fear is a chemical reaction used for man’s survival. In many ways, the most obvious way to survive through an arising situation is to retreat. Though fear was most effective for man when being chased by an antediluvian beast, times have changed, and man’s biggest fears are now related to the economy, business, and social structures. As a business leader, one must be aware of all the apparent fears that keep progress at bay. Once the issues are defined, then they can be faced and defeated.

No one enjoys confronting others about an issue or failure. But as business leaders, it is imperative for keeping a tight and productive office. Most want to have a friend-to-friend relationship with their employees and negate any employer-to-employee associations. When dealing with the need to confront a worker who has disobeyed protocol, fear can stop one at the door. To combat this, making the situation a two-part assignment will leave the leader feeling assertive yet understanding. A great manager will take the worker aside and give praise and encouragement for certain ways he or she has excelled. Then, bring up the issue at hand. It is important to encourage employees and set them up for success with needed discipline.

Fear of failure has kept many from chasing after their dreams. This type of fear can be conditioned or created. For instance, if a person invested in a company but lost most of it after the economic collapse in 2008, that person may not want to invest again. Conditioning has kept humans from playing with fire, jumping off large structures, and swimming in shark-infested waters. But in business, failure can definitely make someone timid. The other type of fear is one that is created and without basis. For example, Jane Doe might never have seen an unsuccessful idea be brought up at the office, but she still thinks anything she says will fail. Either one of these emotions can be combated with the simple truth of change. Persistence through change inevitably will bring success, either today, tomorrow, or ten years from now. The great inventor Thomas Edison once said “many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. “

In the modern-day social structure, many people who appear, act, or speak differently than the majority are rejected because of their misunderstood ideas. Though business leaders may believe in their idea, fear of acceptance can ruin the allure of forward thinking. There isn’t an easy way to deal with rejection, and maybe past rejections have paralyzed any efforts to innovate. Whatever the reason, this fear must be handled directly. A leader needs to be aware of the wants and needs of followers but cannot be stopped by worrying what people may think. Sooner or later, it is necessary to move forward. For one to innovate in the face of this fear, a leader must campaign to get people on board with the idea. Once it isn’t just one person’s rejection but the collective’s, ideas are bound to flourish.

In many ways, there is slim chance of reward without taking risks. The stock market is a great example of this. In order to make money, one must first risk by investing. Some people, though, just aren’t risk takers. This fear can actually be helpful in business. Recklessness in the office can debilitate productivity and progress. The part of the brain that distinguishes between good risk and bad risk can be called sound judgment or discernment. The best way to combat this fear is by doing the homework before making the decision. Great leaders know: research lowers risk.

The human brain is wired to be wary of the unknown. Dr. Gregory Berns, an Emory University neuroscientist and author of Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, revealed in an interview that “most everyone seems to have an innate aversion for ambiguity.” If one had the choice between a situation with incomplete information and one with complete information yet risky, “people will generally prefer the risky option, even if it is completely irrational,” explains Berns. Life is full of uncertainties, and to face this fear, leaders must change their perception. As Dr. Berns states, innovators overcome this by thinking of the worst-case scenario in order to have a grasp of what they may encounter.

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