How fear stops us from getting better

How to become a better leader

I came across this in my newsfeed – 12 talks on how to be a better leader. And they’re good. Listen to any one of them and you will no doubt pick up something that you can use.

In researching my book on leadership, I came across the fact that Amazon has almost 200,000 books in that category alone.

If you are signed up for news feeds or blogs like this one, many of them will have titles 5 steps to a better this, 3 tips for an easier that..  There is NO shortage of advice, much of it good, practical and simple. And in today’s world, it has never been easier to find it. Want a book; buy it one click and literally seconds later you can be reading it on your tablet, iPad or kindle.

Want to do some research into what makes for a good leader, you just need to type a few key words in a search engine, and ta da, pages on pages of articles written by some great authors who know their stuff.

So why don’t we do it?

This got me pondering. Sure some of this is leading edge research that is changing the way that we look at leadership. But much of it states and restates what we know over and over again.

So, how come those articles keep getting published? Why do authors think that there is something that they can say that hasn’t been said before? Why do the blogs persist, the TED talks expand, and the books keep on coming?

I am coming to the conclusion that there are two reasons. In some cases, we do already know this stuff, we do practice it, and we are looking to keep learning and growing..

But I think, more likely, it is that we know that we ought to know and do this, but we just don’t do it. It is a bit like losing weight or starting an exercise regime or any other type of change; it requires doing something different to what you are doing now, if you want results that are different to what you have now.


And I think the number one reason we don’t do it (whatever “it” is) is because of fear. We rationalise this with great excuses around lack of time, or any other number of excuses, but ultimately we are scared that if we do it and fail – well, what will that mean? Or worse, we do it and it backfires. And what then? Better to stay the same and stay safe.

Seth Godin has a great explanation of this fear in his wonderful book Linchpin.  Reading this holds a mirror up to each one of us and shows how we can rationalise away almost anything for fear of doing something different.  As Seth says in Linchpin: “the hard part is distinguishing between quitting because the resistance wants  you to (bad idea) or because the resistance doesn’t want you to (great idea). The goal is to quit the tasks you’re doing because you’re hiding on behalf of the lizard brain and to push through the very tasks the lizard fears..”

I don’t think one blog is likely to overcome the evolution of the brain which is so very powerful. But if you have read the bottom of this blog, then take action now, before your brain can stop you.. think about one thing you would like to do differently either in your leadership or the way you communicate or give feedback.. anything.. Then make a plan, and do it..

As Seth says “fear is the best compass you have that you are on the right track.”

What do they say? “Feel the fear and do it anyway”..

Did the world come to an end? I am guessing not. And maybe, just maybe you’ve made some of that change that you were hoping for.

Ps. Be careful — the brain is very clever rationalising around this, so it is already probably giving you reasons why this doesn’t really apply to you!! Ignore it and soldier on!

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