The Real Truth about Fear

Fear is part of achieving and maintaining success.

Organizations fail when they don’t fear failure. They believe they’re above the rules or can rest on past accomplishments. Think about GM, Kodak, Enron, and Blockbuster.

a little fear goes a long way

4 benefits of fear:

Fear motivates.

  1. Fear of failure drives you to cover all your bases. Your presentation to the board could make or break you – you prepare like crazy.
  2. Fear of competitors drives innovation.
  3. Fear of embarrassment keeps you going when you’d like to quit.
  4. Fear of regulators pushes companies into compliance.

7 downsides of fear:

Fear prevents.

  1. Slows. Fearful leaders spend too much time preparing for unlikely exceptions. “What if,” slows progress.
  2. Costs. Covering all your bases takes resources that could be invested in forward movement.
  3. Conforms. Fear of corporate leaders motivates people to fall into line. “The CEO wouldn’t like that.”
  4. Ends. Creativity ends when fear leads the team.
  5. Blocks. Fear of speaking truth to power keeps leaders isolated and oblivious.
  6. Limits. A brain dominated by fear isn’t creative.
  7. Dilutes. The truth that should be spoken is toned down for fear of negative reactions.

7 observations:

  1. A little fear goes a long way.
  2. Trust takes you further than fear; love takes us even further. We need something more than fear for long-term motivation, but fear does help us avoid things.
  3. The flip side of being seen and appreciated is being watched and held accountable.
  4. The trouble with fear is leaders who believe in it use it way too much.
  5. A negative consequence that doesn’t hurt isn’t a negative consequence. I have a coaching client who says, “Accountability hurts.”
  6. “Fear is the mother of foresight.” Thomas Harding
  7. Action answers fear. One reason I write Leadership Freak is I’m answering my fear of insignificance.

The combination of fear and love says, “I enjoy your approval. I want to make you proud. “

How might leaders use fear for good? For bad?