The Fearless Executive

This edition of Mentor Online refers to the book The Fearless Executive by Alan Downs.

There are three themes for this book: Trust your talent. Follow your passion. Silence the fear.

The fear factors are the focus of this edition. Alan Downs denotes two kinds of fear. There is the state of fear and the trait of fear.

The state of fear is the condition when encountering something that is unexpected that has the potential for harm. If there is danger associated with the situation one can be said to be in a state of fear. A rule of thumb for the state of fear is that you experience danger and then you feel fear.

A trait of fear is an enduring attitude of fear. The trait of fear is not connected to any present or potential danger. It is about an imagined danger. A trait of fear is when you feel the fear first and avoid risk or harm altogether.

The author indicates that there are nine basic properties of fear.

  1. Fear lives only in the mind. Fear is something that you do to yourself. No one can make you afraid except you.
  2. Feeling fear is not the same thing as acting upon fear. Feeling at risk or vulnerable is ordinary. No one is immune to this feeling. Permitting fear to restrict or prohibit your moving forward is not ordinary.
  3. Even the most successful executives feel fear. Since feeling fear in stressful times is ordinary, the extraordinary step is to determine how you will handle fear rather than letting fear handle you.
  4. Fear is about imagined catastrophes, not present danger. It is wise to avoid true danger. Wiser still is avoiding the dread and panic of the fantasy that depicts all potential outcomes into harmful negatives that go beyond reality.
  5. Fear is a breach of trust in yourself. Not only does fear cause you to imagine dire traumas, it keeps you continually doubting your ability to prevent or avoid them.
  6. Fear grows in the vacuum created by ignorance. Knowledge is power. The more we know the less fuel there is for fear.
  7. Fear is the opposite of growth. To believe that something (anything!) is absolute and unchanging is to hold an illusion. To try and stop something from changing is to stop growing and to start dying.
  8. Fear feeds upon itself. When you are afraid and take an action to alleviate fear, you feel a sense of relief. That sense of relief gives you the feeling that you have done the right thing, when all you have really done is alleviate your feeling of fear. This actino pattern is repeated for the relief rather than to dispel the source of the fear.
  9. Fear often attracts what it attempts to avoid. Often leaders fear they will fail and they subsequently act in ways that cause them to fail.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear

  1. Acknowledge and confront the irrational beliefs that underlie the fear.
  2. Make a conscious effort to push past the fear even though you continue to feel it.
  3. Take positive action in the direction of your fear.

Published by

Retired Lutheran (ELCA) clergyperson. Founder & owner of Brookover Leadership Development & Consulting, Inc. (1967)

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