Leadership: Choosing Deliberation Over Fear

This memorable statement, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” was made by FDR at his first inaugural address in the Depression-era year 1933.  Fast forward to present time and current events with a quote by Andrew Carton, Ph.D., 2019, of Wharton School of Management:

“Fear leads people to panic and narrow their attention to such an extreme degree that they may overlook opportunities that unexpectedly present themselves.”

Individuals, teams, departments, and organizations are open systems – when one part is perturbed, the whole is affected.  Ever have a toothache?  Enough said. Time and again, when organizations react from a place of fear, although panic may not be seen, employees may react badly.

And speaking of teams…the Raven’s playoff loss to the Titans presented a powerful lesson on fear. My take:

           As adverse events began to unfold, there appeared to be a narrowing of attention (as described in the quote above) and “tunnel vision” ensued.  The Ravens’ strategic playbook containing a smorgasbord of plays, formations, and options, heretofore on vivid display this season, was conspicuously absent.

We can only guess about the many possibilities that the leadership team considered that evening -– we do know that an effective plan to address this threat did not materialize. The absence of a viable “Plan B” was painfully obvious when no alternative course was implemented. This led to a discouraged and disheartened Ravens QB, team, coaching staff, executive leadership team, and, of course, and fan base.  And just one more item:

Thanks to the Ravens for a magnificent season!

Below are a few suggestions for leaders that may be helpful to you when encountering the unexpected and choosing deliberation over fear:

Know Thyself: Knowledge of how you respond (your modus operandi) to unexpected developments is a critical leadership characteristic for you, your peers, and your associates.  And if you need to modify this response, get on with it!  While you may be comfortable with the knowledge you have, there are methods that can increase your awareness of performing under pressure. Additionally, I have found that the most valuable feedback contains both measurable and narrative data – 360 feedback tools have been simplified and are highly cost-effective.  Knowledge is power – use it well.

Know Your Allies: Knowing who you can turn to in times of urgent/emergent situations is more valuable than gold.  Create and maintain these relationships with care; if they are not in place, then begin the process of identifying support resources within and outside of your organization. We’re happy to provide you some feedback and ideas to begin – this initial consultation is provided gratis – what’s not to like?

Get on the Balcony: In their article on adaptive change, “The Work of Leadership” (HBR, 2001), Heifitz and Laurie (2001) stated “…leaders have to be able to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept up in the field of action. Leaders have to see a context for change or create one” (p 4).

Thanks for stopping by.  Let us know if we can assist you while traveling on your leadership, organizational, and life journey.

Joe Lemmon, PhD


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