Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Leadership Tip 7: Facing Fear

Leadership Expectation: Lead with Courage

The idea of “Transpersonal Leadership” was introduced in 2011 by John Knights, championing emotional intelligence as a counter to the traditional ego-based leadership styles. He poses the question, “What do I need to do differently myself to become a better leader?” During his research, he noted many people are promoted into positions of power (i.e. management positions) based on qualities that have nothing to do with their ability to lead. The “Invisible Elephant” in the room has always been that the way a leader treats others influences their performance more than any of the tasks they complete, greatly influencing the culture and overall success of the organization.

A key to moving away from managing people to leading people lies in incorporating emotional awareness into every aspect of our roles. One of the most influential emotions is fear. According to Knights (2018), “fear is the most important and destructive emotion for a leader to understand” (p. 60). Our lizard brain tells us we are at risk of life-threatening harm, but in the absence of predators, how does fear play into our reactions to the world around us? Of what are we afraid?

Fear, in short, is an ego-based response to our desire to stay the same. Fear arises for us when we are presented with a potential change. Change has become the new predator. We fear what we may have to let go, we fear what others will think of us, we fear judgement and criticism, and we even fear how we will feel about ourselves. As that last one is the easiest to hide to keep status quo everywhere else, we often choose courses of action aimed to mitigate the risk of change in our place among our coworkers at the expense of our relationship to Self.

Fear is an inhibitor, a barrier that holds us back from being our best selves, and the only way we can counter that fear is to find our courage. Courage is a virtue, one that Aristotle called the virtue that makes all other virtues possible. A lack of courage prevents us from acting with integrity, keeps us from obtaining wisdom, and inhibits our ability to maintain justice.  Leadership often means making decisions that others don’t like—mostly because of their own fear of change. Fear is an opportunity. Without fear, we do not have the opportunity to experience and cultivate our courage. As leaders, allowing others to see us face our fears and do it anyway will inspire them to find within themselves the ability to be courageous.

We must cultivate the courage of initiative and action, making the first attempts, pursuing new ideas, and stepping up. We must cultivate the courage of confidence in others, letting go of the need to control situations and outcomes and allowing others the space to achieve. And we must cultivate the courage of voice, raising difficult issues, providing tough feedback, and calling out the invisible elephants in the room. (Treasurer, n.d.)

Tip #7: Cultivate courage in yourself to cultivate courage in others in the face of fear.

Knights, J., Grant, D., & Young, G., Eds. (2018). Leading beyond the ego: How to become a transpersonal leader. New York: NY: Routledge.

Treasurer, B. (n.d.) Courage is the key to great leadership. Entrepreneurs’ Organization. https://www.eonetwork.org/octane-magazine/special-features/courageisthekeytogreatleadership

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