Fear Impacts Your Leadership Influence and Every Aspect of Your Wellbeing (Leadership Courage)

Fear Impacts Your Leadership Influence and Every Aspect of Your Wellbeing (Leadership Courage)

In the Sisu Courage Series, I discuss leadership strategies to confront the Fear Pandemic. This virus sabotages your leadership influence. It destroys the character, confidence, and collaboration needed to overcome daunting challenges.

But there is hope…

Dr. Mark McDonald, the author of the book, United States of Fear, describes what he observes…

“When fear is the predominant emotion, it overpowers every other feeling. It overpowers love. It overpowers hate. It also paralyzes the rational faculties. It also makes it impossible to think.”

Dr. McDonald lectured at a Liberty Forum event. He shared his concerns about the negative mental health effects he is witnessing. He is seeing these trends both with his patients—and Americans nationwide.

Fear is indeed a multi-level destroyer. It creates a state of disconnect, where you are unable to analyze objectively. You might enter the fight or flight mode:

    • Fight mode: you’re overly sensitive, easily provoked, and highly reactive. You don’t consider the consequences of your actions.
    • Flight mode: You withdraw, find a place to “hide,” surrender your rights to freedom of choice, and fail to do what you know, deep down, is best for you.

According to a 12/22 American Psychiatric Association’s Healthy Minds poll, more adults in the U.S. expect to be more stressed in 2023 than at this time last year,

    • Personal finances
    • Uncertainty
    • Physical health
    • Mental health
    • Relationships with family and friends
    •  Job security

Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said people appear to be experiencing a “collective fatigue” after more than two years of the Covid pandemic.

I believe this “collective fatigue” is compounded by the pressures of living in the Era of Exponential Progress, Digital Disruption, and Cancel Culture. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT, we have concerns mounting on both micro and macro levels. This TedX by a colleague of mine lays out a framework to understand what we’re dealing with – Searching for a Theoretical for the World Now Emerging.

Watch this video and see the shocking impact of Fear on every aspect of your life.

However, there is light in this seemingly endless dark tunnel. The survey also found that more say they’re more willing to take steps to tackle that stress and improve mental health. And that’s great news! Our response to adversity is critical.

Fight the Fear Pandemic with the Five Capitals Framework

In Millennials Matter, I wrote about the Five Capitals framework. This framework helps us understand how to be an integrated leader. As mentioned in Face Everything and Rise – Your Leadership Strategy to Beat the Fear Pandemic Article, stress and fear negatively impact all areas of our lives. For me, the Five Capitals Framework provides a guide for how to analyze the impact of fear on our leadership strengths. There is a good reason why I’m attracted to this particular model. As business leaders, we’re most familiar, and often most comfortable, with investing, stewarding, and dealing with financial capital. However, when we think deeply about it, we realize there are many other “capitals” that we are also called to steward wisely.

This is how I see fear impacting us in these different areas:

    • Spiritually/Motivationally: Fear impacts your ability to perform normal daily tasks. Engagement at work drops. Resiliency is compromised.
    • Relationally: Fear harms relationships. You lose patience with others over small matters. You don’t listen to others or do not catch what they are telling you. This leads to miscommunication and frustration. Trust flies out the window, collaboration suffers, and communication weakens even more.
    • Physically: An article by Christiane Northrup, M.D. Why fear is so damaging to your health, highlights the harmful effects of fear:
      • Immunity is lowered, thus there is increased susceptibility to viruses and bacteria;
      • Stress hormones can slow, or shut down some bodily functions;
      • Gut health, where most of the immune system resides, is affected;
      • Gastrointestinal issues, including ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), can occur;
      • Fertility may decrease;
      • Depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue are common increases in frequency, duration, and intensity; and
      • Aging may accelerate.
    • Intellectually: Fear reduces your resilience and stunts creative problem-solving. Rational thinking is compromised. It’s difficult to envision a better future.
    • Financially: Fear prevents you from being fully in the game. Then, poor decisions and ill-informed choices lead to adverse financial ramifications.

In your experience, which of the five areas described above is most affected by fear? 

Fight the Fear Pandemic by Moving from the Fear Zone to the Growth Zone

When you feel trapped (whether it’s spiritually/motivationally, relationally, physically, mentally, or financially) it’s distressing. You lose hope for a better future. Yet, there is a pathway forward.

When working with leaders who are paralyzed by fear, I see them moving through three stages. The description of these stages might help you in your coaching strategies.

Stage 1 – Trapped in the Fear Zone

You may see some (or all) of these unproductive behaviors:

    • Spiritually/Motivationally:

Danita ByeGiving in to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Becoming completely disengaged. Failing to see their potential to make a positive difference. This type of behavior is often associated with the “flight or freeze mode.”

    • Relationally:

Damaging or avoiding relationships with colleagues, friends, and family. Easier to go into victim mode and blame others. The result is a never-ending circle of broken communication, mistrust, and missed opportunities.

    • Physically:

Going on an emotional roller-coaster ride due to the “overdose” of stress hormones in their bodies. (One of my friends, a very successful business owner, tells me that she has never seen so many of her staff members come into her office crying. This impacts how she sees her own leadership success.)

    • Mentally:

Rational thinking diminishes – there is a disconnect from reality. As one of my coaches pointed out, living in fear is like rubbing Vaseline on your eyes. It makes it impossible to see things clearly. Creativity and innovation skills are stunted.

    • Financially:

Decisions may be rash and unwise, not rational. Hoarding items or money.

Stage 2 – Making Progress in the Learning Zone 

In this stage, you are learning how to deal effectively with fear. You start using tools and strategies that enable healthy choices. In this phase, you’ll see them…

    • Spiritually/Motivationally: 

Shifting focus from things you can’t control, to what you can control. You learn to be vigilant about what you consume – from food to news. You are vigilant about controlling your interaction on social media.

    • Relationally:

Choosing to make rational choices based on truth, not fear.

    • Physically:

Gaining awareness and knowledge about the physical impact of fear. You are attuning to your body and your mindset. This empowers you to make positive changes. You learn about the importance of enough sleep and exercise, coupled with a balanced diet. You examine the physical space in which you operate. You understand that clutter isn’t conducive to nurturing peace, positivity, and productivity.

    • Intellectually:

Making decisions on your own. You identify trustworthy sources of information, online and social media sources.  You evaluate information, not accepting everything you hear or read as the truth. Learning to discern between fake and real news.

    • Financially:

Choosing to make rational choices based on truth, not fear.

Stage 3 – Expanding in the Growth Zone  

In the third stage, you begin exhibiting these behaviors.

    • Spiritually/Motivationally:

Prioritizing healthy spiritual and motivational practices. Finding time for journaling, reading, and reflection. Taking care of inner health. (Get my Spiritual Pathway Survey here for more insights on this.)

    • Relationally:

Focusing outward, using skills and talents to help those around you. You understand that it’s unproductive to go into victim mode and play blame games. Your serving mindset strengthens relationships. You listen and are able to collaborate with others. You move from isolation to connection.

    • Physically: 

Implementing a plan to take care of your physical space, as well as your physical health. Eating, exercising, and sleeping well. Managing time in order to accomplish top priorities.

    • Intellectually:

Develop the courage needed to tackle real problems in a productive and creative way. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to achieve the results you want.

    • Financially: 

Decisions and choices are not driven by fear but grounded in reality. A rational mindset is combined with a positive vision for the future.


Is the Fear Pandemic driving you into Fight and/or Flight mode?

Then it’s time to double-check where you’re at on the 3 Stages of the Fear Trap. Based on your insights, how might you assist others to move into the Growth Zone?

This quote from Dr. Mark McDonald, caught my attention the first time I read it:

“When fear is the predominant emotion, it overpowers every other feeling. It overpowers love. It overpowers hate. It also paralyzes the rational faculties. It also makes it impossible to think.”

This does not have to be your truth. As a successful leader, you can fight the Fear Pandemic and expand your leadership influence in a powerful way.

For more strategies, tips, and resources, to successfully deal with the Fear Pandemic, I invite you to read the Sisu Courage Series.

The Fear Pandemic calls on you to expand your leadership influence.

Remember that your leadership matters, NOW, more than ever.

You can read all the articles in the Sisu Courage Series by clicking on the links below:

How do You Confront Fear to Strengthen Your Leadership Development?

Leadership Strategy Insights from Courageously Taking on Mount Kilimanjaro

A Courageous Character Keeps Your Leadership Development Journey on Track

Gratitude Builds Courage to Confidently Turn Scary Times into Leadership Development

How to Courageously Connect to Improve Your Leadership Performance

Need a speaker for your next podcast series?

Let’s discuss a tailor-made talk to meet your specific needs.

Virtual speaking event? No problem!

Check out my Speaker page HERE.

To schedule, a call contact me at danita@danitabye.com

  • Mike Paradis
    Posted at h, Reply

    Danita always hits it right where we need the impact. Over the years, you’ve provided so much insight. We all want to find the growth zone. Thank again!

    • Danita
      Posted at h, Reply

      It’s good to hear from you, Mike. You’re right – we all want to find the Growth Zone. And (at least for me), it can be easy to get the the Comfortable/Status Quo Zone or the Stuck Zone. Sometimes we need things to shake up our world a bit, so we get back into the Growth Zone.

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