Leadership Lessons from 5500 ft.

When I posted the below pic of me and my hubby flying, a Facebook friend responded “OMG, do you ever get nervous up there?

As a leader, you’re probably very familiar with the motivational saying, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. If for some crazy reason you’re not, you’re welcome. Well, after a few times of flying 5500ft in the air in what feels like a tin can, I think that slogan needs some fortification. Deciding you’re going to do something even though you feel scared is one step. Actually feeling fear is another matter entirely.  

Fear can seem impossible to feel. It grabs your attention and steals your focus. It can render you frantic with worry or stop you dead in your tracks; literally put you to sleep. When fear runs the show at the office, workers appear distracted. Subordinates may start questioning their leader’s authority. 

Of the many ways people learn how to master destructive fear — breathing into it, letting it flow through you, taking meds to help it subside — another, advanced option is to simply ignore it.

What do you focus on instead? 

At work, it’s the task at hand. In life it’s the same, but that task can be harder to pinpoint.

For example, in the air, if I focus on my fear, my stomach churns and my brain bubbles with all the disastrous possibilities. A panicked flyer is dangerous. So when I go up in the air with this guy, I give myself the task of staying alert and in awe. I am forced to ignore my fear, and focus instead on the vista, on how far in the distance I can see, and what the mountains look like from on high.

Within minutes, instead of fearful, I find myself in the moment feeling inspired and expanded. 

I’ve been transferring this skill to life by using it in new experiences (like performing a prize winning story slam) and I have to say, it really helps. The sky has taught me well. 

Are you nervous “up there” — giving presentations; in your new leadership role, or spearheading a new strategic direction? It’s natural. Feeling and then ignoring fear is a skill that takes some time to master.

Start today.

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