8 Signs You Are a Cowardly Leader, Part 1

It’s a tough time to be running your own business. You must make smart business decisions if you hope to survive. Action has consequences, but so too does avoiding action, and these days you have a razor-thin margin for error. This is why you must assure you’re thinking clearly when you make decisions affecting your business.

A new book by speaker and author Mike Staver promises to show you how fear can limit your potential. Leadership Isn’t for Cowards examines the ways fear can obscure your way forward and interfere with courageous leadership. Once you see clearly how fear is hampering your business decision making, you can learn to embrace the challenges you face, conquer fear and lead from a position of strength.

Besides doing real damage to your business potential, explains Staver, a fear-based approach can hurt your employees, the very people you are charged with leading. All leaders, asserts Staver, “mess with people’s lives,” which is why it is so important that you lead with clarity and awareness rather than fear. “Whether you’re messing with their lives in a positive, growth-inspiring way or a negative, spirit-crushing way depends on the clarity with which you make decisions and execute.”

Here are eight signs you might be driven by fear:

  1. You prefer the easy way out. Bold, decisive action makes you uncomfortable, so you do what’s easy. Then, later, you rationalize your choices. This is the path of least resistance (and also of mediocrity and stagnation).
  2. You pretend not to know what you know. Pretending is common in the workplace, says Staver. You may overlook any number of situations that demand attention. “There is always a price to be paid for needed actions not taken. Your job as a leader is to look reality in the face and accept it so that you can make the tough decisions that need to be made.”
  3. You’re distracted by “shiny balls.” You try to focus on an important task when an email or phone call completely derails you. Anyone can stay “busy.” It takes real courage to stay focused and on task. “If we can’t achieve focus and manage the deluge of information that comes at us every day, we’ll drown in the chaos. We’ll fail to do the important things. We’ll fail as leaders.”
  4. You ignore the causes of “weight and drag.” You probably already know what (or whom) is holding back your company. Ask yourself now: Am I refusing to make a decision, waiting to hire an assistant, delaying a hiring or firing issue? “At the core of your job is your role as an obstacle remover,” says Staver. “Be courageous: Remove the obstacles you can and work around the ones that remain so that you can stay productive, directed, and focused.”
  5. You cannot reconcile your head and your gut. It takes a balance of facts and instinct for good decision making. Many leaders stick to one or the other. But courageous leaders understand that they need to step outside their comfort zones when it’s time to make decisions. “Your leadership will be enhanced, the performance of your team will improve, and they will likely trust you more if you lead with both your head and your gut,” says Staver.
  6. You abuse the “I’m not quite ready” excuse. “Leaders and organizations spend too much time getting ready to be ready to get ready to almost get ready to be ready to get ready,” explains Staver. “Getting ready” is form of avoidance. Fear of failure causes you to put off the inevitable. Of course, you must prepare for action, but eventually you must take action, even if conditions aren’t ideal. “Messy and quick is better than perfect and slow.”
  7. You hide from the present. Being fully present mentally takes courage. It takes discipline not to mull over the past or worry about the future. Worry, anticipation, regret—these take us away from effective day-to-day leadership. “If you decide to trade this moment for the memory of yesterday or the concern of tomorrow, you are likely to miss what’s happening now,” says Staver.
  8. You notice only that which supports your beliefs. It’s human nature to overlook information that goes against our beliefs. The tendency is so engrained that it can blind us to all evidence contradicting our beliefs. And, as long as we see no other way, no other point of view, we can avoid taking action.

Being a strong leader takes courage. And sometimes the opponent who poses the greatest threat is not your competitor but the voice inside your own head. Arm yourself with the proper tools and techniques, and you can banish fear and lead your troops to victory.

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