Fear Factor is a Game for Great Leaders

Whether you’re male or female, big or small, young or old, it is almost guaranteed that you’re afraid of something. In fact, you probably wouldn't admit to some of your fears and may not even be aware of others.  Spiders, cockroaches, snakes, sharks, heights, the dark, small spaces, clowns, the boogeyman, ghosts – just a few of the fears that humans are known to fear. Personally, I am afraid of frogs. I know it sounds silly and ridiculous but it is a true and very real phobia. Living in the wetlands of Florida does not help this situation and I can’t tell you how many times baby frogs have taken up residence on my windshield. Somehow, I have managed to survive all previous frog encounters. But how?

The answer lies in a little word with big meaning – courage. It takes courage to stand up for yourself against your fear. The previously mentioned examples of fear are not only common, but simple. What about the more complex illustrations of fear? – Anxiety, weakness, vulnerability, failure, public opinion, and acceptance. At a young age, we are taught not to succumb to peer pressure and not to follow the crowd. We’ve all heard the infamous “jump off a bridge” lecture, yet we played a game that was actually called “Follow the leader”.  We live in a world that loves to point fingers, laugh at the expense of others, and watch people fail. As a leader, how could one possibly not fear rejection and criticism?

All successes begin with a fear of uncertainty. Great leaders grab a hold of those fearful situations and muster up the courage to bring them home. Paint this picture in your head – NFL star quarterback is playing his rival team. It’s halftime and the team is down 21-0 because he hasn’t completed a single pass. The fans in the stands are “boo”ing and yelling obscenities at him. Yet, somehow, he manages to step back onto that field and face reality. He knows he has the support of his family, coach, and teammates. Now all he needs to do is make some solid plays and prove to the fans that he is getting paid millions of dollars for a reason. Next thing you know, the superstar quarterback manages to come back from a 21-0 deficit and seal a “W” for his team. Final score: 21-49. The opposing team did not change or lose their skills. So what was the changing factor coming into the third quarter? The quarterback’s courage is what changed.

Leaders and managers are faced with very similar situations on a daily basis, not just on Sundays. Mediocre leaders hold themselves (and others) back by giving in to the fear of criticism and failure. Exceptional leaders thrive on that fear because it means the result is that much more rewarding. If for some reason success does not result, that just means there is a lesson to be learned and there is room to grow. Constructive criticism is a great leader’s best friend. Challenging the status quo and proving the skeptics wrong are what feeds the giant – courage.

This article was provided by University Alliance, on behalf of the University of Notre Dame’s online certificate program. They offer an executive certificates in leadership, management, and negotiations, with courses geared to improve conflict resolution style, executive leadership strategies, and intercultural management. For additional course information please vist http://www.notredameonline.com/.

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