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Psychological Fear in Leadership

When we talk about fear, we are talking about a strong and intense emotion that goes with us every day, if we feel threatened in a real or imaginary way. We are talking about Emotions. Thinking does not happen without Emotion (Caruso, Salovey 2004), our thought and our Emotions are close connected. The mood influences our thinking and our decision making. When we talk about fear in leadership, we are referring to several aspects, but mainly we are referring to uncertainty, social skills, and changes, where our Ego and our Self-esteem are at stake. Of course, our skills in emotional intelligence and tolerance of frustration will help to overcome it. The fear in these cases is not a fear of a real threat, but of a situation that can be frustrating for us.

In leadership we cannot afford to fall into these irrational emotional states. It is not about being a psychopath, or a dark triad personality disorder to be able to perform a leadership position, but rather to know oneself, be a good team player, diplomat, motivator, accept changes and responsibilities. In short term, to be able to engage in personal and professional development, involving the team in these developments.

To understand a person, we need to know something about what moves him, both positively and negatively, what his wishes, goals, plans, values, what his fears and dislikes are. People express the same feelings in all types of societies, but cultural differences can affect the intensity and expression. All have the same facial expressions for several basic feelings. When we are talking about fear in leadership, wea are talking about manage stress, emotional intelligence skills, Ego, and resilience. These are the basic principles in the leading process.

According to Caruso and Salovey, if we can manage our emotions, we increase the chances that our decisions will be more effective and our lives more adaptive. I have tried to put the important points around the emotion of fear in leadership. Faith moves mountains and fear creates barriers. Fear is a necessary emotion for our survival, but the thought of fear is terrible. Thoughts about possible adverse scenarios can be so severe that they affect our immune or psychosomatic system. This is a giant dimension, but the reality is that our anxiety helps somehow to slow down the process and stop the negative effects of the fear that can affect our body, even if the symptoms are terrible.

There are people who very rarely feel fear, but to feel aggression is much easier, for them. For Kierkegaard (1844) fear has to do with human existence. Fear is an emotional state of our body, and we should learn to live with the fear. Emotions always concern our identity. we may not only control the dangers, we may not only overcome fear, but we should manage fear, especially in leadership. We try always repressing our fear feeling through rationalization or intellectualization, projection, psychosomatic symptom and so on. emotions have many functions throughout life and represent our main system of evolution and adaptation to the environment. Emotions are the result of the interaction of the person and the environment and are the main way to get to know others. We are born emotionally programmed for our survival.

An intelligent person could not develop at all without emotions Evans (2003) but we need to know how to manage it, to be aware for businesspeople what to do for an effective atmosphere and efficiency at work. However, a decisive aspect of many emotions is their unpredictability. Emotions are not only a means to achieve a certain goal, they also help us to decide which goals we want to achieve at all. We all have feelings continuously. To stop feeling would be like to stop thinking. When we deny ourselves the permission to feel, we lose the ability to even identify what we are feeling. Brackett (2019)

“The only thing we must fear, is fear itself”. Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Book “The Dark and Light Side of Leadership” is our book of the month, in our book club. Read more here.

You can attend the Emotional Intelligence Workshops with Celia Avila-Rauch, here.