How do You Confront Fear to Strengthen Your Leadership Development?

How do You Confront Fear to Strengthen Your Leadership Development?

Our daughter, Danae, is co-director of a leadership development project in Tanzania. A couple of months ago, my husband, Gordon, went to visit her. Covid craziness had somewhat calmed down here in North Dakota.

But, the Amsterdam International airport was still on high alert. He saw travelers in full hazmat suits boarding a plane. When texting me this photo, he said, “Danita, this is what MAX fear and stress looks like! People traveling in hazmat suits from the top of their heads to the tip of their toes! Yikes!”

The Stress Concept and Fear Trends

My interest in the concept of stress/fear goes back many years. It started while a pre-med student at the University of Sioux Falls.

With a dream of medical school, I titled my capstone project “The Stress Concept.”  The research focused on the physical impact of stress and fear on the human body. It’s a bit odd, but I’ve actually saved the report in an old filing cabinet…and dug it out for this article. It’s still readable, even though I used an electronic typewriter and transparencies (remember those?).

Here’s my ah-ha while researching the topic in 1980. Bad stress and fear impact every area of our lives, not just the physical. We feel fear spiritually, relationally, physically, intellectually, and financially.

Fast forward to now – you are facing a Fear Pandemic – one that both legacy and social media stoke.  They appear to be selling fear. I wonder if they have stock in a hazmat manufacturing firm.

The Fear Pandemic wreaks more havoc than any virus could.

Our culture is changing.  It’s the Era of Exponential Progress. Consider these revolutionary shifts in these industries:

    • Medical: DNA sequencing, gene editing genomes.
    • Technology: We have robotics, Cybersecurity, and Blockchain technology.
    • Financial: bitcoin, crypto-currency.
    • Space Exploration: 30,000 satellites orbiting the earth, drones.

In “Artificial Intelligence is Transforming our World – Are We Ready?” ( by Nikola L. Katzov, JD, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota), he starts the article with this list of everyday ways our world is changing:

    • Cars drive themselves.
    • Automated grocery stores allow customers to shop without employees in the store.
    • Software applications control access, temperature, and lighting in our smart homes.
    • Autonomous robots clean our houses.

Digital disruption, as well as economic and cultural upheaval is driving uncertainty. Fear and stress is rampant at every level. These are a couple of findings from a recent survey of university students. This is how they responded to “I have felt increased stress about….”

    • 71% loss of social connections, social isolation
    • 69% Increased anxiety or depression
    • 61% physical health for me or a family member

No wonder there’s fear and stress. Here are some of the headlines that popped up on my daily newsfeed:

    • Mysterious Hepatitis Cases in Children Reported in 25 States
    • How to Invest in a Market Crash
    • Americans Have Tons of Worries – And War in Europe is Way Down the List

Fuel and food prices are skyrocketing. Inflation is increasing. Doom-and-gloom predictions for future economic prospects are rife. So, let’s be real – there are many things you might fear in our world!

In the background, social media continues to feed the fear monster….

It feels like we all need to do both physical and emotional hazmat suits!

Beware of the Fake Fear Trap to Protect Leadership Development Success 

Social media is successful in getting people worked up about false or unhealthy fear. Government, corporations, and mainstream media quickly capitalize on this fear trap. Headlines maximize the fear-mongering effect. This fear enables the next steps. The government gets millions of people to adhere to irrational, unscientific, draconian regulations, and mandates.

In the ’60s, the KGB did some fascinating psychological experiments. They bombarded human subjects with non-stop false fear messages.  It took two months or less for most subjects to believe the false message. They deliberately feed the fear monster. The results? Unquestioning obedience to the fear-mongering master.

There is a popular FEAR acronym that describes unhealthy fear. False Evidence Appearing Real!

Unhealthy fear anticipates the unknown…

    • It’s anxiety about what might happen tomorrow, next week, or next year.
    • It’s assuming we know what other people might do / how they will react.
    • It’s focusing on what people say, vs. listening to hear what God says.

George Barna’s recent research reveals that 54% of young adults admit to “often feeling anxious, depressed, or unsafe.” See my summary of this report here.

Fear is at the core of these alarming statistics. That’s why your leadership matters, now, more than ever before.

What might happen to you if you’re constantly living in a state of fear?

Fear Impacts Every Aspect of Your Well-Being 

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 will draw, find a place to “hide.” surrender your rights to freedom of choice, and do what you know, deep down, is best for you.

In Millennials Matter, I’ve written about the Five Capitals framework. This framework helps us understand how to be an integrated leader. Fear causes disconnectedness. Fear negatively impacts all Five Capitals, all five areas of your life:

    • 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 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 a common increase 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? 

Moving from the Fear Zone to the Growth Zone 

Danita Bye

 

When you feel trapped (whether it’s spiritually/motivationally, relationally, intellectually, physically, or financially) it’s distressing. You’re unable to have 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:

Giving in to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Become 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.)

      • Intellectually:

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 were 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 effectively deal 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:

Moving from isolation to community. You realize that you are not alone in this and start building relationships with positive people.

      • 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. (For more insights on this, get my Spiritual Pathway Survey here.)

      • Relationally:

Focusing outward, using skills and talents to help those around you. You understand that victim mode and blame-gaming are unproductive. 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.

Summary

When I wrote The Stress Concept, I never imagined Gordon’s photo of travelers in physical hazmat suits. Nor, did I envision that so many leaders blindly donning hazmat suits in the other areas of their lives (spiritual/motivational, relationally, intellectually, financially).

It’s time for you to double-check where you’re at the 3 Stage of the Fear Trip. Based on your insights, how can you help others move into the Growth Zone?

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

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

Leadership Development Lesson: Equip yourself with the skills and tools needed to fight the Fear Pandemic.

Leadership Development Question: How might you help other leaders recognize the 3 Stages of the Fear Trap?

Need a speaker for your next event?

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

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