Five Leadership Tips for the Terrified Leader

m32Last Sunday, I was assigned as the worship leader at our church service.  My job was to open the service, lead hymns, give the alter call prayer, and generally keep the service moving along smoothly. So how did it turn out?  In a word, it was horrible!!!  I flubbed references to scripture; I miss-quoted song titles, and had the choir singing at the wrong time.  Now, why was I a horrible worship leader?  In a word, I was terrified!!! Yet, I am an accomplished “Professional Speaker”!

We have all seen it; perhaps you have had the same experience as I had, trying to fill in at doing an unfamiliar task.  You were called on to lead and were terrified about the prospect of failure in leadership.

Traits of a Terrified Leader

  • Incapable of making a decision because of fear of the outcome.
  • Fearful of communicating a vision or direction for the organization.
  • Frightened about comforting the facts or about making the hard decisions that have to be made.

What do these traits have in common?  Fear. Let’s face it; the terrified leader is an afraid leader and a leader leads badly when they are afraid.

Leading With the Fear Factor

Leadership is the relationship that exists between people, organizations, and purpose all directed toward accomplishing a goal.

Fear is a human emotion, as leaders, and as individuals, we are all afraid.  However, as leaders we must learn how to understand how to lead with the fear factor, use our fears, and the fears of those that we lead, to become the confident leader who people and organizations, must have to achieve our goals.

Five Leadership Tips for the Terrified Leader:

1. It is not all on you.

Leaders never do it alone. Even if you are leading, just yourself, there is a cadre of people in your corner just waiting to help you, not only with the things that you are trying to accomplish, but also to help you with your fears.

  • o Fearless Leadership Tip: Don’t be a Loan Ranger; get people involved because they want to help.

2. Understand your fears and the fears of those you lead.

Fear can cripple us as leaders and organizations, stopping progress on anything we want to accomplish.  Making decisions based on fears or based on how to avoid fears, can be a toxin to the organization. Over time, fear stifles innovative ideas, creative thinking, problem-solving, and passion.  Additionally fear distracts employees from the vision of the organization. In fact, the Gordon Institute of Business Science estimated that fear-based decision-making can cost organizations from 20% to 80% of their potential.

  • o Fearless Leadership Tip: Use fear to your advantage only by leading the fear .

3. Communicate and Listen  

Terrified leaders communicate, and more importantly, listen in fear. It is simply impossible to lead without interpersonal communication skills. Fearless leaders find their voice and become skillful at expressing both their hopes and fears to the ones they lead.

  • o Fearless Leadership Tip: Effective leadership is about finding your leadership voice. For nearly a century  Toastmasters has helped people worldwide become better communicators and leaders.  Find out more at

4. Trust Yourself

Leaders cannot lead without trust. When people sense that a leader is worthy of their trust, they will invest time and take risks in ways they never would if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity.  However, the first place leaders must build trust is with themselves.

  • o Fearless Leadership Tip: Build self-trust with a personal commitment to transparency, authenticity, and integrity

5. Knowledge Can Overcome Fear

A leader with a lack of knowledge is a terrified leader. If you do not possess subject matter expertise, you will lead scared.  The fake it until you make it days have long since passed, because in this information Internet age, the people you lead can and will have as much access to knowledge as you have.

  • o Fearless Leadership Tip: Embrace knowledge develop a technical command over your subject matter.

The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is…

FDR 1933When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as President of the United States on March 4, 1933, Americans were griped with fear as the county was in the clutches of The Great Depression.  The fear was warranted; a quarter of the workforce was unemployed. Farmers were in deep trouble as prices fell by 60%. Two million people were homeless. In more than half of the states the banks were closed.  In this backdrop of fear and trepidation, the new President challenged the nation about fear saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The potency of that statement is revealed in a closer examination of the man making the remark.  For Roosevelt to lead the nation, he had to overcome his own fear, the terror of living with polio. Which made the simple act of Roosevelt standing to deliver a speech on fear, a fearful event for him because of his concerns about falling during this important moment.

Fear is real, but we do not have to be terrified by fear, for scripture tells us: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid. Deuteronomy 31:6

Go out and Lead!


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