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You Must Know Fear to Succeed

To become a fearless leader, you need to examine and overcome whatever is holding you back.
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Who hasn't experienced a moment of insecurity? You may fear the failure of a new venture. You may even be fearful of what might happen if you succeed! The voice of fear tells you to keep quiet and to stay within your comfort zone. But fear can also motivate you.

The acronym F.E.A.R. stands for "False Evidence Appearing Real." This is a true definition of fear. It's easy for your mind to weave together false tales of how situations might turn out:

If I start my own business now, I won't be able to provide for my family. If I invest in this new team member, we won't make our numbers this month. If I don't nail this project, I will fail my team. If I don't land this new customer, I will never be able to afford our new mortgage payment. If I do land this new customer, I don't think I can take it to the next level again.

Fear is really a secondary emotion, not a primary one, which makes it hard to address. If you don't know the root cause, how can you tackle it?

That's why it's necessary to know your fear, so that you can understand where it comes from.  For example, your fear of growing your business might be a symptom of your desire to keep control of your current life as it is. Your fear of public speaking (#1 on the world's list of fears) might be a symptom of insecurities--you worry that you aren't expert enough or prepared enough to give a fluent speech.

The key is to identify your primary response to a situation, and then change--or at least, examine--it.  When you really consider the root of your fear, you can determine if it comes from insecurity, sense of loss, need for control, or discomfort with uncertainty.

Once you honestly identify your primary response, you start to know your fear more intimately. Then you can equip yourself with information and experiences to fearlessly manage change in your life. Think about and act on your fear instead of simply reacting to it.

Leadership excellence is rooted in that fearless confidence that your hard work will pave a new, brighter path for you and your team. But "fearless" doesn't mean that you can never feel fear--it means you must know your fear.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Aug 20, 2013

LEE COLAN | Columnist

LEE COLAN is founder of The L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership advisor, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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