How to be a Fearless Leader

The thing that terrified me the most as a child was thunderstorms and tornadoes. I don’t know what it was about them, but when it would start to thunderstorm, this incredible fear swept over me. I remember running to my parents room terrified, hoping they would let me sleep on the floor. I’ll never forget what my dad would say. “Whenever you are afraid, just remember the Bible – ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind'”.

Then he’d send me back to bed. I remember laying in my bed, hearing the crash of thunder and the bright lightning, counting the seconds between the two, and wondering if that night would be my last. I’d recite that verse over and over in my head. I didn’t understand it, and I don’t ever remember being comforted by it. It did usually put me to sleep though, so I’ll take what I can get.

Great Leaders Lead Fearlessly

I’ve been thinking about it lately with the Coronavirus scare that seems to be sweeping the world. Side-note – Johns Hopkins has put together a great visual they keep updated about COVID-19 here. The verse comes from 2 Timothy 1:7. In another blog post, Leader, Your Faith Matters!, I share a bit about how what you believe impacts how you lead. For this blog post, I’ll take a bit of time to share what Fear is, and why, at least for the Christian, we can lead fearlessly.

What is Fear?

As a kid, I never did get why the verse in 2 Timothy ends with power and love and a sound mind. What does power, love, and a sound mind have to do with fear? I know I’m a bit late to the game, but having thought about it over the past few weeks, it hit me. Fear comes from the lack of one of those three things, always. Let’s do an exercise. Think of a fear you have. I’ve listed a few below. Then consider if what I said was true.

Common Fears

Below are the top 10 fears as noted on thetoptens.com. Along with how I’ve related them to the three things the Bible says God gives us – Power, Love, and a Sound Mind.

  1. Fear of Death – I think this is a combination of all three. Power, because we feel powerless, Love, because we may not understand God’s Love, and a Sound Mind – because we think of all of the “what-if” scenarios.
  2. Fear of Sharks – I’d classify this under the Sound Mind category. Statisticaly you are more likely to die in a car accident, or slip in a tub, or even choke on a pickle than get eaten by a shark.
  3. Fear of Spiders – Sound mind..
  4. Fear of the dark – A lack of power. Claustrophobia, a fear of small spaces is probably in the same category. We can’t see in the dark, and we feel powerless to defend ourselves.
  5. Fear of Snakes – more animals.. what gives?
  6. Fear of Wasps – I get this. My wife will tell you I hate all things bees. Don’t get smart and say wasps aren’t bees. I put any stinging insect into the bee category and have a long and storied relationship with them. Someday I’ll share more. I put this one under love, because I get no love from them… ever.
  7. Fear of Loud Noises – I would put this under a lack of power. I took my boys to a monster truck rally. When they came out and drove around the arena, the noise was deafening, and you could feel it deep in your heart. I looked at the boys faces and it was sheer awe and terror.
  8. Fear of Vampire Bats – more animals..
  9. Fear of Dogs – sound mind
  10. Fear of Heights – Sound mind. I don’t like heights. When I fly I start thinking about whether the wings will fall off or when the engines will stop. If that were likely, no-one would fly, ever.
  11. (HONRABLE MENTIONS)
  12. Fear of losing a child – A lack of power to control the situation
  13. Fear of someone you love deciding to leave you – a lack of love
  14. Fear of Coronavirus – A lack of power and a lack of a sound mind. I’ll address this a bit later in the blog.

I’m confident any fear you have, can be tied back to the perception or the reality of a lack of love, a lack of power, or a lack of a sound mind. Can you think of one that doesn’t fit?

Where Does Fear Come From?

Well, according to the Bible, it doesn’t come from God. If you remember the verse, it says “but God hath not given us a spirit of fear…”. In fact, it says He gives us the opposite – “but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If it doesn’t come from God, than who else might be the culprit?

1 Peter 5:8 tells us the devil is our adversary, like a lion he roams around looking for whom he can devour. I’m not going to go deep here, but if anyone is making you feel powerless, if anyone is making you feel unloved, and if anyone is distorting your thinking, it is the devil. So what do you do when something like the Coronavirus hits the news and sends the world into what seems like chaos? And how do you lead through that without fear?

What to do With Corona Virus Fear?

The Bible says God gives us a sound mind. Now the books of Timothy were written by Paul, to Timothy, a young Christian leader at a time when the world was crucifying Christians. So I’ll just say that a prerequisite to fearless leadership, is knowing and pursuing God. If you don’t want Him, these are probably really tough times for you. That said, let me tell you how to handle fears within the context of power, love, and a sound mind.

Powerlessness

The Coronavirus has a lot of people feeling powerless. Statistics today indicate the mortality rate is around 3.5%. That’s a pretty high percentage considering almost 4 in every hundred infected could die. I happen to think we don’t really know the denominator well enough to be sure it’s actually that high. People being tested are people sick enough to think they have it, with access to medical treatment that can actually test for it. I digress. If you are feeling powerless, how is that any different than any other day? Very few people have the option of preventing their own deaths. I trust in the Creator of Life who is all-powerful. I’m okay with whatever outcome he wishes.

Unsound Mind

The Coronavirus has a lot of people thinking with a distorted view of reality. Toilet paper? I told my wife, “I think people are thinking of the wrong virus.” I get it. Long periods of quarantine. No toilet paper. Bad outcomes. But really? I want to do a study on when toilet paper became a thing. For thousands of years our ancestors went without toilet paper. I think we can make it a few weeks with a normal amount of toilet paper in the house.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be careful or concerned for human life. We should practice good hygiene. We should wash our hands. We should follow guidelines from the CDC, and we should respect the concerns and boundaries of others. But we shouldn’t stop living. No pun intended. Seriously that would be a great pun, but the timing is just not right for it. Be informed. Be smart, but don’t let the hype and circumstances send you into self-quarantine needlessly. And don’t freak out if you have a cough or sneeze.

No Love

If you feel like God must not love us to allow something like this to happen, then you don’t understand His love. It was man that brought sin into the world, and it’s sin that causes death. God didn’t author this. But He does promise to never leave us nor forsake us. He’s proven over and over again that He loves us, so there is no reason to fear because of a lack of love.

So What does Fearless Leadership Look Like?

Fearless leadership looks powerful. It looks loving. And it is rooted in sound thinking. As a leader you can’t focus on the what-ifs from a fearful perspective. You can think about what-ifs from a preparation and mitigation perspective. For example, if I’m quarantined, I need at least 2 weeks worth of toilet paper. 4 kids, a wife, carry the 2, we need about 200 rolls – apparently. By the way, we got just the normal amount of toilet paper. Why? Because we needed it. Call us unprepared when we ask you for some, but not until then.

The history of the world is filled with stories of courageous people who led fearlessly. Find a book and be inspired. Don’t be like George Castanza in Seinfeld knocking over the clown, the kids and the old lady at the birthday party because of a small oven fire. Don’t be stupid and ignore danger altogether, either.

Lead with love. People are afraid of all sorts of things. Don’t discount or overlook their fears. Acknowledge them, and make sure they understand you are right there in it with them. You might be surprised how calming a strong, fearless presence has on the people around you. Ask a kid and they will probably tell you the safest place is in their father’s arms. It has less to do with the father’s ability, and more to do with the child’s perception.

Lead with a sound mind. People follow leaders, with their emotions as much as with their actions. I’ll blog about that in the future as well. Make common sense decisions based on your organizations guidelines and maintain a people-first approach. Don’t overexaggerate the situation and try to stay as close to the facts as you possibly can. The media looks for the most extreme stories and then touts them as normal. Don’t get caught up in the hype. I want to share a brief video from my Pastor at Grand Rapids Baptist Church. He talks about 3 things you can do today to help keep a positive focus and a sound mind.

Lastly, keep doing your job and living life. Do your best. Love people. Serve people. Memorize 2 Timothy 1:7 and recite it in your mind. And for crying out loud, return some of that toilet paper!

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