Leading Out of Fear

I had a great conversation with a leader last week. He was discussing his successes as well as his challenges in business, and he shared a great insight that he’d come to realize: for quite some time, he’d been leading out of fear.

I understood what he was talking about. I’ve been there. Maybe you have too. We are clicking along, business is growing, things are good, the future looks bright, and then suddenly, bam! We experience a few hard blows that knock the wind out of us and stop us in our tracks. As we work to gather our bearings and re-calibrate in the midst of the struggles, doubt can start to creep in, and we begin to question ourselves and our decisions.

We begin leading out of fear: fear in hiring, decision making, creating, selling, leading, and just about every other area where we used to feel confident.

The problem is when we lead out of fear, we spend all our energy playing defense. A great defense might help keep the opposition at bay, but it’s certainly no way to grow and thrive. Not to mention, spending all your time defending is exhausting!

So, how do you work to regain your A Game when you feel like you’ve been knocked down a notch, or ten?

  • Retrain your brain. Yes, it might sound a bit silly and soft, but our thoughts have a lot to do with our results. I’m not saying “if you believe it, you can achieve it,” (there’s a lot more to accomplishing something significant that than just “belief”) but belief and a positive mindset is where it begins. A positive attitude is the spark needed to build momentum, and whatever attitude you have, your team will adopt. Flip your negative thoughts into positives, and quit dwelling on the “what ifs.”
  • Set (and celebrate) small goals toward your bigger goals. When my husband and I owned several staffing locations, the early 2000s recession hit us hard. It was difficult to fathom how we would rebuild our offices to what they once were, so we focused on setting and celebrating smaller attainable goals that marked our progress toward bigger ones. When you measure your progress in small steps, the big picture goals seem much more attainable.
  • Be willing to trust. Trusting can be hard, especially if some of the blows you’ve experienced have come from people you trusted. But, in most cases you can’t make much progress alone. Trust is always a risk, but it’s an essential one, and it’s usually worth taking.

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