In the Lead Like Jesus movement, we talk about how fear is the natural fruit of EGO -- as in, Edging God Out.
Pride is the other natural fruit of Edging God Out. Although at first glance these two things seem diametrically opposed, both are rooted in the perspective that the self is "Good Old Number One." When we put the self first, our prime value in life becomes looking out for oneself.
That fosters ineffective leadership because when someone lives as if nothing matters more than his or her self, colleagues and associates -- even friends -- quickly learn that in these relationships they also have to look out for themselves, first and foremost, in order to survive. Then neither individuals nor their groups rise above self-interest to achieve larger missions.
People who wish to lead like Jesus come at life from an entirely different perspective. They start from the conviction that God loves them absolutely and will ultimately look after them. In the security of God's love, they are free to put organizational missions and the needs of others ahead of their own self-centered concerns.
Of course, perfection is not to be found in this world -- and fear stalks most of us at least some of the time.
Mary Jo Asmus, an executive coach, founder and president of Aspire Collaborative Services, says: "When the doors are closed and I'm in conversations with even the best leaders, I hear them speak of what they cannot do. We dig deeper and find that fear is holding them back."
She adds: "Fear is a big (negative) driver in organizations. It lurks quietly behind other emotions and unless you are vigilant it can stifle your ability to lead well."
Ms. Asmus advises that whenever we feel "resistance, reluctance, or even anger about taking action," we should courageously ask ourselves seven questions. Here are six of them:
- Is it fear that I feel?
- What is driving my fear?
- What assumptions am I making about what might occur if I take action? Are they true?
- How might I overcome my fear?
- What's the worst that could happen if I take action?
- What's the best that could happen if I take action?
But the most important question we should ask ourselves when fear is holding us back is: "Is it the right thing to do?"
Imagine how history would have unfolded differently if every leader at every level across the ages had honestly and courageously asked themselves this question and let the answer govern their behavior.
"If you are a leader who has a solid value system in place and you answer 'yes' to this question, fear becomes a non-issue. Miraculously, you are called to step into that fear in order to do what is right and to take action for the greater good," Ms. Asmus writes.
We think her choice of the world "miraculously" is providential. The assurance of God's love for us and confidence that He will bless our best efforts push fear off to the side and pulls out its fangs.
Pray for that assurance and those blessings today ... and every day. And as it grows, appreciate and celebrate it. It truly is a grace.
Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute