How Do Leaders Respond to Fear?
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

I went to the grocery store Sunday night and I was astonished by the empty shelves in a place that I always found abundance. Fear rushed over me. The world-wide pandemic has gripped our community. What are leaders to do in a time of fear?

Fear can be paralyzing. It can cause all kinds of negative reactions – or no actions at all. As a military veteran, it is fear that leaders must learn to deal with. It is what can destroy any positive efforts to do daily tasks and to accomplish our mission. However, fighting fear – not our enemies – is the most important job of a leader in a time of crisis.

So how do we need to fight fear? First, I start with myself. When we are fearful, everyone around us knows it. Fear is such a strong emotion that it is impossible to hide. We can’t just hide it from those we lead and those we love. That is what makes times of war and pandemic so difficult. The fear and uncertainty are so real and so pervasive that it can control us. We must confront our own fears so we can help others confront their fears.

I confront my fears differently than you may. However, I will share my way so you can develop your own unique method. I share my fear with someone I trust; someone I can be my true self with. Fortunately, I have several people I can turn to and let them know just how afraid I am. My wonderful wife, Denise, can hear all of my fears and accept me as I am. She is amazing. I also use my silent meditation time to let my fear manifest itself. As a Christian, I turn to Jesus. In the darkness of the morning, I can say and do anything I need to do to reveal the depth of my fear. When we are truly afraid, we should not be shocked to experience all kinds of emotions – deep sadness, deep anger, deep despair. This morning, I felt deep sadness and let myself cry. A good cry can help cleanse us. As a leader, we need to be human and aware that others are allowed to also just be who they are.

I personally have learned to confront my fear first as a path to helping others confront their fear. Then, I humbly share that I am confronting my fear and that I am available to them as they overcome their own fear. We need to lead the way in acknowledging fear is around us and give others concrete ways to deal with their own personal fears.

Once I address my fears, I ask one clarifying question. What do I control here? Then I can act on those things I can control and leave the rest to others who can control what they can control. Once my fear is out of the way – for the moment – I can take effective actions to help the situation and not contribute to the fear and panic that can overtake us in a pandemic.

How are you dealing with your fears? Have you dealt with your own fears so that you can help others deal with their pain and fear? How does dealing with your own fear prepare you for the actions you need to help others? It is time to address the fear that is everywhere. Leaders must confront and control their fear. Once we begin to understand our fear, we can take the next step – doing something to address the fear.

Deal with your fears directly. Then you can lead others.