On the surface it seems to be a paradox: Who (in their right mind) would voluntarily submit themselves to fear? And this isn’t the act of willingly paying the price of admission to see a scary movie. The real fear we’re talking about looks like this:
- The risk of losing your credibility (your identity!) if you don’t deliver the project.
- The danger of making a wrong decision – where, with a wrong move, people you care about will lose their jobs.
- The perils faced by being vulnerable, by taking responsibility and saying “I made a mistake. I’m sorry.”
- The hazards of being authentic, of being you – because others may laugh, dismiss or discount you.
If you’re a collaborative leader, you recognize these fears. And, what’s important to remember: You volunteered for these fears. No one is making you stay in the job you’re in. While it’s tempting to play the game of “I have to do this, because…” in the end, every decision is yours.
Bob Johansen, in his superb book The New Leadership Literacies, lays out the case for voluntary fear engagement beautifully: The successful leaders of the future will be those who can willingly volunteer to engage with fear. As things in our world are increasingly uncertain, the power will go to those who are clear about who they are, their purpose, and what really matters.
The fear you feel is a choice. The act of engaging in it is a significant step towards leading the rest of us in this changing world.