5 Ways to be a Fearless Leader
When I was graduating from college, I didn’t intend to start a Haiti-based non-profit. I knew I wanted to live in Haiti, help people, and work hard. So when a stranger offered a donation to establish a new program in an underserved rural village, I jumped at it.
In the post-earthquake world of aid work in Haiti, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was young, on my own, and my daily “commute” to the village was on a motorcycle taxi. But I knew the language, I knew to ask questions, and I knew how to hire people with the skills and experience I lacked. Our pilot program launched just two weeks later with one hundred children and four local program managers. Now, GOALS Haiti is celebrating four years of working with thousands of children and its daily programs are led by 20 talented staff members, 18 of whom are from local villages.
Each step of the way, I lost a little bit of fear. Fear about things falling apart, fear about making mistakes, fear about over-reaching myself. How did I do this? Because each of those things happened. Worst case scenarios played out and the world kept turning anyway. Even more, the biggest mistakes often led to the biggest opportunities. Here’s what I know now:
It’s not enough simply to make plans or write down goals. At a certain point, you have to jump off the ledge and go for it, knowing full well that you’ll hit some obstacles along the way. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, we must be “the man who … at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Worst case scenarios played out and the world kept turning anyway.
2. Perfection is the Enemy of Progress
Not even the most famous and accomplished among us have it all figured out, and that hasn’t stopped them from charging ahead anyway. If you can move past a need for perfection in order to focus on the messy, flawed process of getting things done, then you’ll end up moving a whole lot faster.
3. Do What You Hate
Identify the things that scare you most. Is it being wrong? Making presentations at work? Traveling alone? The things that scare us are our biggest weaknesses. Becoming fearless is not an overnight process. It is a steady habit of chipping away at our worries and neuroses in hopes that we will eventually overpower them. Think about what makes you nervous and face it head on. Even the smallest actions will help new confidence take root.
It’s not enough simply to make plans or write down goals. At a certain point, you have to jump off the ledge and go for it, knowing full well that you’ll hit some obstacles along the way.
4. Name Your Fears
The easiest way for our fears to take hold of us is to let them run our lives in secret. By their very nature, our fears are often something that we are too insecure about to share publicly. Be honest with yourself about what you are scared of, and be open about them with others. Every time you name your fears, you will diminish the power they have over you.
5. Beginner’s Mind
Inexperience can be a gift. It is never easier to ask for help than when you are a beginner. It is also a unique opportunity to introduce new ideas and excel. After all, if you don’t know how the game is played, you can’t be limited by its rules. This mindset helps us embrace change, to receive feedback, and to assess ourselves honestly. We release expectations and see situations more clearly for what they are.
Every time you name your fears, you will diminish the power they have over you.
Cultivating fearlessness is not an easy process. It is uncomfortable, scary and overwhelming. But I invite you to try it out today regardless. Is there something you’ve been avoiding? Something weighing on your mind? Name it, face it, and live your life without it constraining your thoughts or actions. See how it feels. There is no secret trick to becoming fearless. Like all the best qualities of leadership, it needs practice, patience and passion. With enough time, these efforts will enable you to be a happier, more confident person, better able to support yourself and to lead others.
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