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Leaders Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” – Napoleon Hill

It was the 1930’s and America was in the grip of the Great Depression; the nation was struggling to survive. Unemployment was hovering at 25% by 1933. Fear, uncertainty, and doubts about the future were everywhere. It would take extraordinary leadership to navigate the complexities of reviving a nation.

In his first Inaugural Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said; “I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.

Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, 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.

In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

The Great Depression which began in 1929 would continue to 1939.  It began with the stock market crash of October 1929, Wall Street was in a panic and millions of investors lost everything. Roosevelt’s Inaugural address was a call to action.

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks

There isn’t a leader anywhere who hasn’t had to face and overcome their own fears and self-doubts. When it comes to growing leadership potential you get accustomed to living outside your comfort zone.  In each stage of growth, you may uncover some new insecurities lurking beneath the surface. The good news is your self-confidence grows with each victory. When it comes to leadership, managing your emotions is non-negotiable.

When you’re facing your fears or insecurities, remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is not unique. Our comfort zones can develop some formidable push backs against breakthroughs. Some degree of fear is a normal part of life, you can use the adrenalin to your advantage if you don’t become attached to it.

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”   -Dale Carnegie

Action Avoids the Insecurity Trap   It’s an astonishing fact that many highly capable leaders agonize over a lack of confidence in their own abilities, Roosevelt wasn’t one of them. He understood that self-doubt can at times be paralyzing, and second guessing over important decisions can be mistaken by others as procrastination.

The nation needed a compelling vision and decisive action to pursue it, Roosevelt provided both. He did not allow the country to entertain their insecurities because it would only magnify their anxieties. There were too many leaders from governmental, corporate to family, who had others depending on them for direction, encouragement and motivation.

Never Entertain the Fear of Failing Your Team Nobody’s perfect, even the best leaders will miss the mark from time to time. Never let the idea that your team will think less of you when you fail get in the way of making the difficult decisions.

Allow each failure to serve as a lesson on how to embrace failures for the wisdom inherent within them. The success that follows will speak volumes to your team. As a leader you’re concerned with right outcomes for the good of the organization, so, avoid the people pleasing trap. Roosevelt was too busy with getting a nation back to work to entertain ideas of failing them.

Mental Toughness and Addressing the Issues Addressing issues with your team is never pleasant, but it is necessary. I’m sure Roosevelt had to deal with issues at a congressional level before addressing the larger ones on a national level.

When you establish a culture of honor and self-respect nothing is personal. As a leader you should always be striving for a win/win with every confrontation. Whether within yourself, your team, or your organization, always keep the bigger picture in view.

Communication is the only way you as a leader can connect with your team, or with anyone else for that matter. Remember the win/win especially when addressing issues, nothing is personal because it’s always about the bigger picture. Clarifying expectations, time frames, and outcomes upfront always simplifies those unpleasant conversations.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tzu

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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