Leadership Fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

This famous quote from Franklin Roosevelt speaks as clearly to leaders today as it did in the 1940s. In their book, Play to Win, Larry and Hersch Wilson present psychologist Maxie Maultsby’s concept of the Four Fatal Fears.

Maultsby believes these fears impede our ability to interact effectively with others and take relevant action. These fears can not only immobilize us, but also immobilize an entire organization when a leader is stuck in their grip. Let’s take a look at the impact of these Four Fatal Fears on a leader’s ability to create a dynamic organization that responds quickly and effectively to change, creates new and innovative solutions, and works toward a common vision.

When leaders act out of fear, their actions and decisions are guarded and restrictive. These leaders tend to focus on controlling others, rather than managing themselves. The leaders’ fears and anxieties are transmitted to their organizations, which creates dependency, indecisiveness and lack of personal responsibility. These shared fears can replace the firm’s shared values and lead to ethical lapses, poor and untimely decisions, ineffective communication and dysfunctional relationships. To face and manage these fears, leaders must remain honest with themselves regarding their most prevalent fear and the conditions that are most likely to provoke that fear.



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