Act Fearless and Kick Doubt to the Curb

By Diane Dempster, Executive Coach 

Act FearlessThey make it look so easy, don’t they? Those people who move life forward effortlessly. Firmly decisive in all they do, taking risks left and right, throwing care to the wind as they act fearless. Maybe you are one of those people. If so, I applaud your bravery. And maybe, like me, sometimes you’re not so brave!

Yes, even great leaders occasionally find themselves stuck. Wringing hands, looking over our shoulders, unsure where to turn or what action to take. We may even avoid or delay making decisions in an effort to figure out the “right” and perfect solution. Fear is actually a normal reaction to unknown or unexpected circumstances, and in fact, sometimes it can help to motivate or engage us differently in our work and decision making. Why do we think that our experiences as leaders would be any different? Here are some keys for those moments when fearless leaders get waylaid with trepidation and doubt.

Know your gremlins

It’s human nature to build up walls and worries that can stand in the way of action, one of these is the gremlin (or inner critic).  When we are aware of, and ultimately manage, those voices in our head that increase the fear, we influence our ability to take bold and decisive action…to act fearless. Whether we ignore our gremlin, coach ourselves through the fear, or give him (and ourselves) an inspirational kick in the pants, the first step is the most important; recognize when we are holding ourselves back and choose to address our self-doubts.

Surround yourself with a strong team

Often, when doubts and fears take over, what is most helpful is some external input. Having someone to talk through and balance the risks, or even just to vent to, can be a huge support in those moments of doubt. Practically, there may be additional tools, information, or skills required to increase our confidence and/or the probability of success. Sometimes, we just need to know that we aren’t in this alone, and someone has our back. In those moments, reach out, phone a friend, ask your team for input and support.

Get some perspective

One of the key advantages of working with a strong team is the ability to get some outside perspective on a difficult decision or situation. Even if we don’t consult others, taking the time to look at a situation more objectively and holistically can help us to see things that are less evident on the face.  Take the time to explore alternative points of view. How might others view the situation differently? What perspective will be most helpful in moving forward?  It can also help to take a break from the situation, go for a walk, put it down and come back tomorrow with a fresh start and new perspective.

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Harness the power to act fearless

Although in most cases, fear leaves us feeling indecisive and perhaps even stuck; sometimes a little anxiety is exactly what is needed to motivate us to move into action. The energy we get from avoiding an undesirable situation can create necessary pressure that will to propel us forward, beyond our comfort zones. If we can identify that fear is a necessary ingredient in growth, instead of being at the effect of our fears, we can harness it and move forward in ways that might not otherwise be possible.

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing. One storm can come and blow it all away…build it anyway. 

– Martina McBride (with credit to the co-writers)