Less Fear, More Brave

Fearless Girl Bull

Less fear, more brave. That’s my short answer to Regina Dugan’s question posed at the beginning of her TED talk, “what would you attempt to do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?”  I was grateful for my reminder of this talk. It’s one of my favorites and one I have been using in programs since 2012. I love it because it reminds me of some questions I often ask my Executive Coaching clients about their goals and ambitions. If you haven’t already seen it, I would say it is very much worth the 20 odd minutes.

Sometimes we all need a reminder to dial-down the fear in our lives. I notice the more senior my clients get, the more fearful they become. Not because they don’t already have a track record of tremendous success, but actually because they do. One of my clients was asked by the CEO to lead the fastest growing business in their company. When I asked my client what he thought of this wonderful opportunity he remarked, “but what happens if they don’t like me?” His response was completely fear-based and not to mention completely irrational. This is a guy who joined the company about 7 years ago and has done incredibly well. He’s a super smart, results-oriented, warm and funny leader. He became known for building a function that was nascent when he arrived, and for turning around another function that had been costing the organization millions in lost revenue and resources. As I like to say, he definitely “put a lot of points on the board” for the company in his 7-year tenure. So why was he so fearful about this new opportunity?

Another client of mine was up for promotion to Managing Director at a large financial services firm. She, too, had a proven record of stellar performance having been given the highest rankings in her performance review each of the 5 years since she joined the organization. Her work was recognized by her own business and by clients internally and externally with whom she worked closely. When we started working on her coaching plan, she expressed her fear that she just didn’t think she was going to be good enough to get the promotion. Again, her fear was completely irrational. This is a woman who delivers for her clients constantly, wins new business for her firm, mentors young professionals starting at the firm, was nominated to participate in a highly-selective leadership program by one of the heads of her business unit, was asked to join a career development committee for the business and serve as one of its Chairs. I could go on, but I think you get the point. This woman is one of the smartest and most accomplished professionals around, but fear overshadowed her life in a very big way. Why couldn’t she see what we all see?

Fearless Girl Selfie

Both of these examples help us understand what a powerful emotion fear can be.  In my experience working with leaders, fear is the emotion that I see most often emerge as the cage confining these highly successful leaders from their boundless futures. We learn fear and how to react to this emotion that is designed to keep us safe from harm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could unlearn fear and return to a more fearless and brave state like when we were children? This is why I love the “Fearless Girl” statue that was placed by the "Charging Bull" statue in NYC. It serves as a reminder, at least to me, that we should all have less fear and be braver. 

A little over a year ago is when my answer to Regina’s question actually came to life after watching this TED talk for 4 years. I took a leap and started this company KD Leadership Strategies. I would be lying if I said that there wasn’t a lot of fear in taking the leap away from my steady, full-time Wall Street gig. But it was time for me to embrace my own answer to the question and dial down my fear and ratchet up my bravery! I’ve always thought of myself as a business strategist, entrepreneur, and innovator, so why not just go do it? The answer is fear. But it was time to for me to face my fears, be brave and take the jump. A year later, I am so glad I did. I am doing what I would attempt to do if I knew I wouldn’t fail; and guess what, I’m not failing! I would be remiss if I didn’t thank all of my own coaches, mentors, sponsors, past/present clients, future clients and the 6 people who make up the KD Leadership Strategies, LLC Advisory Group for seeing my potential and believing in my business idea. As we celebrate the official one-year anniversary of KD Leadership Strategies, I would like to toast to all of my past, current and future clients, “May you all have just a little less fear and just a little more bravery today than you did yesterday. If you find you need some help with that, I am here for you. Cheers!” Check me out on Twitter (@KDLSsays) and share your #LessFearMoreBRAVE stories!