To be human is to know failure. It’s an inevitable part of life. One of the frailties of the human psyche is our fear of failure. Yet without overcoming this fear, we can’t innovate, create, or push forward as we are paralyzed by it. As I wrote in Taming the Saber Tooth Tiger – Three Ways to Cope with Stress at Work, fear is an inevitable emotion. We encounter it in all aspects of our lives, at work, at school, and at home. The key to success is in how we manage it.
For leaders, consistently overcoming fear is essential. Being tenacious in tough times takes the courage of conviction and a strong belief in your choices. Leaders are expected to bring others along with them, sharing the vision and translating it into a methodical plan for execution. A leader who is paralyzed by fear cannot fight for his cause and cannot fight for the team. Holding steadfast to a decision during the tough times also lets others know that the leader will fight for what she believes, despite the odds.
We all know resilient leaders who always bounce back despite setbacks and seem fearless. These leaders demonstrate several key attributes:
They tap into commitment.
Motivation is not enough. Sheer willpower will not keep leaders motivated to stay the course. Effective leaders know that being motivated will get them started but won’t get them through the rough days that lie ahead. Real dedication is the only thing that can empower this journey. And to find this, each leader has to ask themselves just how resolute they really are. By understanding their level of commitment these leaders tap into this internal resource when times get tough. Finding your “why” helps you power through fear.
They identify challenges.
Visionary leaders anticipate setbacks. They are realistic about obstacles getting in the way of their goals, and they are ready to meet these challenges head-on. Some challenges are unavoidable, others are within our control. Leaders who recognize the difference put plans in place to overcome those that are in their control and minimize or accept those that are unavoidable. Assume bumps in the road to be as prepared as possible to deal with them.
They practice positivity.
A positive attitude buffers fear. Accomplished leaders know that a single negative event is not part of a never-ending pattern of defeat. If they screw up, they learn from it and move on. Shifting their focus to a positive perspective breaks the cycle of fearful rumination that can paralyze and galvanizes them back to action.
They detach from the outcome.
Jack Canfield wrote: “If you want to remain calm and peaceful as you go through life you have to have high intention and low attachment.” Effective leaders know that not always getting what they want or having things go their way is just a part of life. They are skilled at letting it go, while still moving forward in the direction of the goal. By detaching from a particular outcome, they remain agile and stay open to experiences and opportunities that they otherwise may not have seen.
There is a saying in prizefighting: “You’re going to get hit. The getting up is up to you.” What a gift we give ourselves, our colleagues, our teams and our communities if we can push through the fear and see the world of possibility that exists in every interaction, every relationship, and every experience of our lives.
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