Becoming The Fearless Leader
The world desperately needs fearless leaders, leaders who know how to deal with fear. Most importantly, the world needs leaders who inspire their people to overcome fear so that they may keep moving forward in the face of fear. We have such great leaders in our history and would like to share two of them here in this blog.
In his first inaugural address while the nation was experiencing a cruel depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) inspired Americans who were afraid of the great depression. He appealed to the nation: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” FDR was the right leader whose voice comforted America in that dark period in its history because he knew the very nature of fear. As a leader, he identified, labeled, and confronted FEAR so that people would overcome it. His plea was if Americans refrained from entertaining fear, they could come out alive from that vicious depression.
Fear is brutal. It has an invisible power to cause us live what hasn’t yet happened. It’s a ghost you cannot see and touch but its presence terrorizes you if you allow it. The problem is that there is no known cure to overcome fear. It’s persistent. The only way to defeat fear is to learn how to live and co-exist with it. No one is exempted and immunized. Fear attacks everyone once in awhile. But, as leaders, we have an additional responsibility to become fearless. Very few leaders, however, learned how to triumph over it. One of such leaders was the late Nelson Mandela. He said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Mandela, our hero, was honest about feeling afraid. In his autobiography, he expanded on the above statement. Once he was onboard of a small plane. It was a local flight within South Africa. The crew was told one of the engines went dead once they were on the air. Everybody began to panic. Mandela too thought that was it. He thought he was going to die that day. But, everybody was looking at him and counting on him to encourage them. What they didn’t know was that he too was scared 🙂
The difference between those on that flight who entertained and fed fear, and finally exhibited it outwardly; and Mandela was that he knew the true meaning of courage. He knew how to deal with fear. In the book, he shared how he took leadership and calmed everyone and asked the team to hope for the best while he was afraid within. Since he didn’t display fear in the outside, they thought he was a superman who doesn’t feel fear. They were wrong. He was a bold man who overcame his fears at cellular level 🙂 He didn’t allow fear to grow within him, and manifest in the outside. As for the plane, it landed safely…
As leaders, not only we need to overcome our own fears, but also must help our people to overcome fear. We cannot help our people to overcome fear unless we have first conquered our own fear and become fearless in the face of fear.
We all may not have the same kinds of fears. For some the fear that torments them could be health related while for others financial, and still for others the fear of losing, failing, rejection, and so on. Whatever fear (s) we may experience right now, we all should learn from Mandela. As leaders we shouldn’t allow fear to overwhelm and paralyze us. While it looks like we’re afraid and feeling that we’re going down and sinking at any second from NOW and this is our last breath/day/week/month/year, let’s acknowledge it, overcome the feeling, and stay on course. Let’s move forward regardless of the fear that is attacking us from within. The storm will, for sure, pass. We’ll survive to tell the story to the people we influence. And most importantly, let’s take a lesson or two on how to manage FEAR this time so that we won’t allow fear to terrorize us and our people as it did this time when we face it the next time.