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How Fear Limits Your Ability to Lead

When we do nothing, fear has won the day, and we have lost our opportunity to grow.

Courage or Cowardice? It is the leader’s choice. There is no middle ground. Fear limits your ability to lead. Leaders are constantly confronted with choices that will expose us as a coward or a courageous Leader of Character.

Our choices when we face our fears define who we are as a leader.

  • What do we do when we are faced with uncertainty?

  • What do we do when we are faced with a situation that makes us uncomfortable?

  • What do we do when we are faced with saying what someone wants to hear versus something they need to hear?

The choices we make when fear raises its ugly head determines the impact we will have on those we lead. These are not easy choices, but they are the choices we all face as leaders. Everyone has fears. The difference is the choices we make when we face those fears.

The Easy Choice – Do Nothing

We can choose the easy route. The easy thing to do in many cases is to let our fears make our decisions for us.

  • “I don’t know how he will react.”

  • “I trust very few people.”

  • “I’m just not good at confrontation.”

  • “I’m too young to say anything.”

  • “I don’t know how it will turn out.”

  • “I’ve never done this before.”

  • “I don’t know him."

  • “She never reacts well in these situations.”

  • “I might lose my job.”

  • “I might lose my friend.”

  • Nobody else is doing anything about it.”

Therefore, we do nothing. Fear has won the day. We have lost an opportunity to grow and do the right thing. And our fear limits our ability to lead.

Andersons’ 12 word (or less) Definition of Courage

Acting despite perceived or actual risk.

The Hard Choice – Acting with Courage

Leaders of Character will have a lot of the same reservations as those who make the easier choice. But instead they decide to exercise Courage. Courage is the fulcrum that defines a leader’s character.

Without Courage, Integrity is impossible. If we only do the right thing when it is easy or there is no risk involved, that is not Integrity, that is pragmatism. The Courage to make the hard choices leaders are faced with determines whether we are a Leader of Character.

Without Courage, Selflessness is impossible. To be selfless, we must be willing to give up our desires or comfort for the good of someone else. We must have the Courage to have a hard conversation with an employee, spouse, or child. If fear prevents us from speaking up, then fear has convinced us our own comfort is more important than the other person.

The Bottom Line:

Few of us picture ourselves as cowards. But what are we if we let fear make our choices for us? Leaders of Character do not have a magic pill or some special power that helps them make those hard choices. They just have more practice at making those choices.

Practice Courage in the small things and your character will be prepared when you need Courage in the big things in life.

All of us can develop the habit of Courage by making the hard choices instead of the easier choices. The more we make a choice, the easier it is to make that same choice again. That is how all habits are formed – one choice at a time.

Each time we choose to act with Courage the easier it is to make the same choice again. Conversely, each time we choose to let fear make our decisions, it makes it easier to do that again as well.

Leaders must have the Courage to make hard choices whether it is at work or at home. Developing the Habit of Character called Courage will do more to impact your ability to lead than any MBA course ever will.

Question: When a leader chooses fear would you follow them? Would you follow you?


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