By Kenny Markwardt, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor
“I’m going to be real honest with all of you. I haven’t slept in about a week. I’m terrified that we’re not going to make it through this, and I’m not so sure it’s worth the fight anymore.”
Imagine walking into your next staff meeting and announcing that to the group. You’re going to have some major problems on your hands even if you follow up with “but hey, I’ve felt this way a few times before, and here we are!”
The unfortunate reality of leadership is that if you haven’t felt nagging fear or periodically experienced self-doubt, you just haven’t been doing it long enough.
We are taking risks, solving problems and making big decisions that affect a lot of lives every single day. It’s normal to be scared and stressed out sometimes. But we have very few safe places where we can share those fears.
We are required as leaders to consistently show up to the arena with our game faces on and encourage our teams to do the same. When your people come to you with their fears and insecurities, you need to show them stability and calm. However, burying your own stuff, hoping that you’ll sleep the next night and assuming it’s “just part of the job” is a recipe for disaster.
Here are five ways to become a fearless leader.
1. Create Your Dream Team
Build a team of people you can talk to openly and honestly. It cannot include your staff. You’re their fearless leader, and they need you in that role. This support team needs to be an assembly of professionals who can relate, are objective and know what to say. I suggest including both a therapist and a mentor. A therapist is unbiased and professionally qualified. He or she will be able to give you specific tools to improve mental health. A mentor can relate. Mentors have been there, they can talk you through things, and they can tell you it’s going to be OK as they offer tactics to deal with any business situation.
2. Lean on Peers
Find a group of people you can relate to. It’s not fun to struggle or watch others struggle, but it is incredibly empowering to watch them overcome obstacles or have them cheer you on as you do the same. On the other side, you’ll have a safe place to celebrate with friends.
Read biographies and autobiographies of people you admire. Hearing their stories will help you see the bigger picture. Reading about how many times your heroes have failed and then gotten back up will inspire you and help you remember that no one has ever succeeded at anything meaningful without struggling and failing many times beforehand.
4. Start a Journal
Begin some form of journaling and learn how to coach yourself through your stress and fears. Solving it in your head just won’t work; we aren’t equipped for that type of thinking. You need to do it on paper so you can work through the process in a linear fashion. Here’s a great exercise I once got from a counsellor:
- Write down the problem.
- Write down all the possible outcomes.
- Look at each possible outcome and ask yourself, “Am I going to be OK if this happens?” Write your responses down. I haven’t ever been able to write a convincing “no.”
It’s half the battle just to learn how to notice when your mind is playing in the traffic of your fears and insecurities. Setting aside time to meditate—to sit, watch that traffic and practice disengaging from it—will do wonders for your mental health. I’ve tried various apps, classes and programs with varying success. Most have intros and learning sequences to help you get started. My biggest piece of advice is to recognize that you’re never going to “win” at meditation. It’s a practice, and it can be frustrating for people wired for achievement. Try to embrace the time, put intention into your practice, and recognize that some days you’re going to feel great and some days you’re going to suck. That’s OK. Just keep showing up.
Lead With Confidence
We’ve signed up to be leaders. We like to be under pressure. We wouldn’t want anyone else to get the ball at the buzzer. But that doesn’t mean we have to shoulder the burden alone, pretend we’re impervious to stress or don’t have self-doubt. By using the tactics above, you’ll be able to weather occasional storms with resilience and strength so you can be an effective, fearless leader for your people.