To fear is human. It’s mandatory. We need fear to survive. It drives us. It’s incredibly powerful.
A force this strong is impossible to hide. However smart the suit, strong the cologne, savvy the jargon, offhand the manner, big the car, steely the gaze, or jutting the lower jaw. What we think we are keeping locked away in our own, personal, fear chamber is actually on display for everyone else to see at work. Because it ends up twisting our behaviour out of shape as we try to keep it hidden.
We hide our fear because we think that fear has no place in business – because business is a logical undertaking, requiring a strong hand, a firm will, and decisiveness.
However, to fear is human, it’s mandatory, we need fear to survive. Fear exists, so, to pretend it doesn’t is neither logical, nor sound, nor likely to contribute to effective decision making or the appearance of strength. In short, to deny fear is to suppress your own humanity.
It may have been okay in the past, pre-2008, buoyed up by ever-rising markets, not to worry about this sort of thing. After all, it’s not easy – embracing your humanity as a leader means that you have to do that most difficult of things, and, in full view of your colleagues, rise above your contradictions. But, as growth in the marketplace gets harder and harder to come by, staff satisfaction more and more of an imperative, and social and environmental concerns increasingly pressing, it’s entirely possible that we will all have to learn how to leave the confines of our fear chambers in order to become fit for purpose leaders for this century. Whilst it’s safe in there, if you stay in your chamber, you’ll never experience the exhilaration of passing out into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.
And that journey starts by working out what it is that you are afraid of in the first place. Of being overlooked, left out, misunderstood, not needed, not wanted, unfairly judged, undervalued, not smart enough? Unsuccessful? Fired?
For me it was fear of being wrong. Only recently have I learnt to lead without having to be right all the time – not that I was right all the time, and in trying to cover my tracks I often made a fool of myself.
Whatever your fear, everyone around you can already see it, so the idea of keeping it hidden is vaguely absurd.
And whatever your fear, letting it drive your behaviour is what got you this far, but it won’t necessarily be what takes you all the way.
Do you want to pour your talents into avoiding failure, or achieving success?
Do you want to leave all your ships in the harbour, and never set sail, because at least you’re sure that they won’t sink there?
Or, do you want to re-define your relationships with your colleagues, but this time, for real? Having stepped out from your fear chamber into the fearless world, where you can achieve all of your achievements, and fail all of your failures.
|Feedback after a Fearless Organisation speech made by Laurence in 2015:
“The inadvertent saboteur methodology provided a simple and clear model for understanding basic psychological defense mechanisms and how they slow down change. And I appreciated that the presentation was with so much humour!”