Fear: Value Creator or Value Destroyer for Leaders

Fear is palpable, it is almost noticeable, and it is contagious.

Fear is an emotion we feel when we perceive danger or a threat. Fear can cause physiological changes and can lead to behavioural changes, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events…. An irrational fear becomes a phobia.

Fear starts with a perception of a threat or of harm, real or imagined. This threat impacts our physical, emotional or psychological well-being. Some activity or physical thing that activates fear in most of us. We can learn to become afraid or not afraid of nearly anything.

Unfortunately, fear is used by parents and teachers to make students study…saying study or you will fail. What will happen to you when you grow up?

Many people use fear as a motivator or to bully. Police fear, officialdom fear, fear of one’s boss or of losing a job are examples. There are many examples you can think of. Fear of failure is one major problem.

If fear is used gently it can be a value creator, because you can see things rationally and the risk. If it goes to an extreme it becomes a phobia and a value destroyer.

Fear of failure is a big value destroyer as it prevents creativity and working on new ideas in business and in the home life. It freezes action. One must remember that there are three ways of failing:

When we stop improving or we quit or we do not even try. Also making the mistake of equating failure to a person not an event. Failure happens for a reason and not for you.

You must learn from failure and from value destruction you will eventually reach value creation. Remember, failure is temporary and at a point in time. It is a learning experience.

Your ego gets bruised from a failure, you do not.

Leaders must remember failure is an integral part of business and their portfolio. So they must manage fear.

Also remember, lack of fear can result in reckless (I don’t care, or I will win big) behaviour. Gamblers display this. Kids can often be fearless. So can some mercenaries and soldiers. This is to be avoided. Unfortunately, evaluation of risk and of fear is so subjective and somewhat controlled by our sub-conscious and not rational thinking. This is to be feared!

Remember international politics thrives on fear, honour and interest, and can also be the precursor to war.

When does fear add value? Being fearless can make you risk-agnostic, and not look at things properly and rationally. This is a value destroyer.

Thus a leader must imbibe the value adding of fear and avoid the value destruction of fear, which translates into no decision or agonising; or not making the right decision because of fear.

Fear also impacts your people. Generally the executives are more risk averse than top people. Feeling the fear of the top man can make people even more risk averse, sometimes tantamounting to not taking decisions or sitting on things.

As a leader, as a parent, as a teacher, use fear cautiously as a motivating tool. Do not let fear get the better of you and lead you into inaction. Fear of failure must be substituted by joy of success for a leader.

Then you start creating value, new things, and new ideas!


Gautam Mahajan, President, Customer Value Foundation
Founder Editor, Journal of Creating Value jcv.sagepub.com
New Delhi 110065 +91 98100 60368
Twitter @ValueCreationJ
Blogs: https://customervaluefoundation.wordpress.com/
Author of Value CreationTotal Customer Value ManagementCustomer Value InvestmentHow Creating Customer Value Makes you a Great ExecutiveThe Value ImperativeValue Dominant Logic
Come to the Third Global Conference on Creating Value, Oct 20-21, 2020 in Paris France.
Join the Creating Value Alliance at creatingvalue.co

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