Keys for New Leaders


February 19, 2024 Dr. Charles Boyer Episode 37
Keys for New Leaders
Show Notes Transcript

#037 - THE FEAR FACTOR.  This episode is about the fears we face as leaders, fears that can stop you in your tracks and be a limiting or sometimes debilitating factor in your effectiveness as a new leader who serves others. Join Dr. Charles Boyer as he discusses five of the most common fears that many of us face. 

Hello and welcome to Keys for New Leaders, a podcast Serving Leaders Serving Others.  This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer, but my friends call me Charlie, and that’s most certainly YOU, my friend.  Welcome!  I’m so glad you’ve joined us for this podcast.  Serving Leaders Serving Others is what we’re all about.  In this series of podcasts, my goal is to serve you, the leader, helping you serve others through sharing ideas, helpful hints, suggestions, inspiration, insights, encouragement and sometimes a laugh or two to lighten the load along the way.  

I’ve had to take an extended break between episodes lately.  I seem to have caught a bad cold and cough, and my voice dropped into the basement, and then quit altogether for awhile.  No Covid, no RSV, no flu – just a very nasty virus that had to run its course.  I wish it would run a little faster!  If my voice sounds a little scratchy to you, don’t adjust your ear buds – it’s just me, getting back into the swing of things.

This is Episode 37, called THE FEAR FACTOR.  No, this isn’t about the stunt-filled TV reality show from several years ago.  And this isn’t about Fear-Based Leadership, where the Leader tends to lead by Fear.  Fear-Based Leadership breeds resentment, impedes your team’s ability to function, triggers the Fight-or-Flight response, and we’ve had more of that Fear-Based Leadership than we ever need again.  This IS about how FEAR can stop you in your tracks and be a limiting or sometimes debilitating FACTOR in your effectiveness as a new leader who serves others.

Now, just what are those fears that haunt most leaders, especially new leaders?  We can’t ignore them, and believe me, they won’t just go away all by themselves.  We all have these fears, so let’s stare them in the face.  Name them, and then let’s resolve to do something about them.  Yes, you can do something to stare down and conquer those fears.

If you do an Internet search, you’ll find many lists of fears that most leaders face.  Look for the fears listed that are common to most of the lists.  Tackle the most common ones first and add others as you uncover and face them.  You will have your own list, and it will very likely include some of the fears most common to new leaders.  See, you aren’t alone, my friend.  Others have gone before you and have experienced many of the same fears you are facing or will face as a new leader.  And if others can conquer those fears, so can YOU.

Summarizing from the lists I’ve researched, here are some common fears that new leaders often encounter:

·      Fear of Failure – what if I fail at being a leader?

·      Fear of Criticism – what if I get criticized by others for my leadership?

·      Fear of Change – what if my team doesn’t like the changes I want to make?

·      Fear of Exposure – what if people find out that I’m not really all that good a leader?

·      Fear of Making Hard Decisions – what if I have to make a tough decision that nobody will like?

Well, that’s a good start.  There are lots more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.  Let’s tackle those fears one at a time and see what’s causing us to fear them.

·      Fear of Failure – what if I fail?  Well, what if?  What’s the worst that can happen?  What can I do about it? Let’s turn that fear of failure around:  What if I succeed?  What does that look like and feel like to me?  Which of your strengths can you call upon to work towards success?  Turn that negative into a positive, and then focus on the positive.  It takes courage.  Theodore Hesburgh, former President of Notre Dame University, said, “You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

·      Fear of Criticism – what if I get criticized for my decisions, my actions as a leader?  Well, you will.  No matter what you do or don’t do, you’ll be criticized for it.  Count on it.  Decide whether the criticism is valid or not and go on from there.  If it’s valid, then what can you do better?  Whose help can you seek?  If it’s not valid – well, you probably have other things to think about.  A critic once called Beethoven’s Second Symphony “… a hideous monster…”.  Do you know who the critic was?  Neither do I.  Do you know who Beethoven was?  Enough said.

·      Fear of Change – what if my team doesn’t like the changes I am making?  Well, I can practically guarantee you that they won’t.  People resist change.  Maintain the status quo.  Don’t rock the boat.  Why change what’s working?  I think I’ve heard them all in my lifetime, but I probably haven’t.  The point is that change can be frightening to some and threatening to some others.  Your job as leader is to prepare your people to accept change.  It takes time – lots of it.  And patience – lots more of it.  And perseverance – lots and lots more of it.  And excellent communication – lots and lots and lots more of it.

·      Fear of Exposure – ahh, there it is, the Imposter Syndrome.  It’s a more common fear than you think.  Nearly every leader – some estimates are above 80% of all leaders – faces this fear and has to overcome it.  What if people find out that I’m not really prepared to lead them?  What if they find out that I don’t really know that much about this project?  What if … What if ….  Well, what if you focus your attention on what you do really well?  What if you focus on what you’ve already accomplished?  What if you realize that you can get advice or answers from others who can help you?  Your job as leader isn’t to know it all or do it all, but to help your team – those you serve – find success.

·      Fear of Making Hard Decisions – what if I have to make a tough decision that nobody will like?  Happens all the time, my friend.  This is one of the most difficult fears to face, and it will test you and your leadership more than just about anything else.  Avoiding doing the thing that most needs attention isn’t leadership, and doing so can cripple you, your team, your organization.  Being a leader sometimes requires you to swallow hard, step up and accept the responsibility of making those tough but necessary decisions.  It’s not easy, my friend, and we all know it.  It’s especially hard for leaders who serve others, yet sometimes you can best serve others by making those hard decisions.  Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  And author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”

Maybe this will help lighten the load a little:  Some years ago, I read a short and powerful book by Brian Tracy, titled “Eat That Frog.”  Not exactly something to look forward to, is it?  Tracy wrote that if you had to eat a live frog, that would probably be the worst thing that could happen to you that day, so eat that frog first and get it over with.  Not exactly appetizing, but I think you get the idea:  Do the most difficult task first!  Put all your energy, thoughts, preparation, drive and determination into the most difficult task or decision first, and once it’s done, relax!  The worst is over, it’s done, and you don’t have to eat any more frogs that day.

Overcoming your fears, like anything else, takes courage, determination, and lots of practice.  Here are a few suggestions, not in any particular order, that I have found to be helpful.  I hope these will be helpful to you, too, my friend:

·      Practice Self-Care – positive self-talk is absolutely a must-do!  We all have that little gremlin inside us that tells us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not this, not that.  Tune out that gremlin and replace the negatives with positives.  Give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished.  Talk positively to yourself every single day.  What have you done that you are most proud of?  What can you do better?  Then, what will you do?

·      Face That Fear – go ahead, it won’t bite.  Just what IS it that you’re afraid of?  Name it and claim it.  Then ask yourself just why am I afraid of it?  What can that fear really do to me?  What will it take to conquer that fear?  Whose help do I need?  By facing the fear and refusing to let it stop you in your tracks, you will find that you gain the courage and the confidence to overcome it.  You are in charge of you, my friend.

·      Communicate – open up to other people you trust.  Your fears may be the same ones they face.  Believe me, you aren’t alone.  Break out of your comfort zone and share your thoughts, your feelings, your successes with someone you really trust.  Open up and accept positive feedback.  That takes courage, but you can do it.  Open, transparent communication is difficult for many of us.  

Do the most difficult first so you won’t have more frogs to eat.  Good luck, my friend.

And now, it’s time for those three questions that I like to include with each episode.  Here are those three questions – just for you – to help you recap this episode and put your fear-defeating skills in gear:

1.    What is your greatest fear – right now – as a leader?

2.    If you could make that fear suddenly disappear, what is the first step you would take?

3.    What or who is stopping you from taking that first step?

The Special Key for this episode is, obviously, the Key of F for Fear Factor, but also for Finishing off those Fears that can keep you from being an effective leader.  You can do it!

In our next episode, we’re going to talk about Survey Mania.  You know how it goes -- you buy a tube of toothpaste, and when you get home, there’s an email survey from the drugstore wanting to know about your experience purchasing toothpaste at their store.  Well, maybe it’s not QUITE that bad, but I’ll bet you get more than your share of invitations to participate in some survey or another.  At least I do.  Who wants to know all this stuff?  And what in the world does it all mean?  Join me for this next episode, won’t you?  I promise I won’t send you a survey to ask how you enjoyed your experience.

Until then, stay safe and well, my friend, and … enjoy your frog!