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Courage as a Leader

When working as a facilitator of leadership training I often start the first session with this question: "What are 3 things you are most fearful of or anxious about in your role as a leader?" Individuals are asked to write down the first 3 things that come to mind; next they form in small groups to share their individual lists and create a merged list which they put on a flip chart and review with the entire group.

There are 2 key reasons I start with this exercise: 1)it enables people to see how they share many of the same fears and anxieties; 2) we can then talk about the impact facing or avoiding those fears has on your effectiveness as a leader.

Many years ago I came across a quote that has stayed with me: "Each day, choose one fear and face it head on." Great advice if we have the courage to follow it.

Here are some of the most frequently mentioned fears people share in the exercise. Take a look to see how much company you have

  • Giving negative feedback
  • Managing former co-workers who expect me to be their friend first, then their manager
  • Telling people they are not working to their level of ability
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Communicating bad news
  • Aggressive personality types
  • Using power and authority
  • Telling someone they are just not cut out for the job
  • Terminating an employee
  • Confronting someone who gets results but demonstrates bad behaviors
  • Dealing with intellectually arrogant people
  • Dealing with chronic complainers and those who always place blame on others
  • Making a bad decision
  • Being criticized, especially in front of a group
  • Disagreeing with a strong-willed boss
  • Being perceived as a failure
  • Letting my lack of self-confidence limit my ability to succeed
  • Dealing with highly emotional people
  • Making presentations to upper management
  • Having an idea rejected
  • Not speaking up and then regretting if afterward

Admittedly, it is far easier to identify a fear than to confront it. But it is our willingness to confront those fears that ultimately both defines us as a person and can shape our entire career growth.. Will we ever be free of fear? No. Can we take ourselves to a mental and emotional place where we can function even when we are fearful? Absolutely; in fact we must reach that place on our own or with the support of others.

Like many things in life we can become more effective by breaking problems down into manageable parts. As the quote I shared early said, "Each day face one fear and face it head on."

Oh, and one more quote that I find encouraging: "Courage is simply fear that has said its prayers."

Good luck. Be brave.

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