Leadership Redefined: The Courage to Feel Fear


Remember those bumper stickers in the 90s that boldly stated ‘NO FEAR’ in a scary typeface - usually on the back of a big jacked-up truck with tinted windows, etc? I remember feeling fear looking at those and wondering if it’s really possible. Can people really intimidate fear itself? Look fear in the eye and have fear quiver away, never wanting to approach that person again?

As I grew up, I started to have a bigger context for myself and how I relate to fear. I later realized that this image of No Fear -  on one-hand - seemed attractive, and powerful, yet was so far from reality. And then it started to connect for me:  Why is it that those people with those very same bumper stickers appear the most scared? Why does the tough-guy facade keep feeling thinner and thinner? Are they so afraid of fear that they even need to slap a bumper sticker on their trucks to advertise exactly how afraid they really are?

I then started to get that it is actually the opposite that is true: the most courageous thing I can do is feel my fear versus attempt to ward it off with bumper stickers, distracting myself, over-eating, over-filling my schedule, or a myriad of other creative ways to not get into relationship with it.

Uncannily, as I intended to sit-down and write this article on fear, I see this is the very topic Seth Godin chose to speak to in his blog today.  My favorite excerpt here is that fear “becomes a way to know what to do next.” What if fear was the indicator that this was the direction I need to take to lead my life versus hold-back?

“Neo, you’ve been down that road before”

I was recently coaching some clients who were at that critical choice-point that many entrepreneurs face: are we going to invest our own money into our business to give it a chance to grow to the next level or is it time to hang up our hats and just get a job at Bagels N’ Schmears or some equivalent? I could sense the relief in each of these partners at the thought of not having to risk investing in themselves with their own capital, and put even more skin in the game (including their home). But what was even louder, was the reality that they didn’t want to give up on their dreams. This moved me as I felt the real courage of each of them standing for what they most want, and feeling scared.

They each knew there were bigger life lessons in leading in their business and in their life, and made a choice that fear wasn’t going to be bigger than them. And the only way they got bigger than their fear was by taking a couple of months to sit with all of this, feel it, and finally get into the place within each of them to come to terms with what they really wanted: to grow their business they way they knew only they could. They are both incredibly creative and gifted in their industry, and through the coaching process, got bigger than the familiar voices of doubt into the unknown of yes.

Since then, they have hired their next employee, are redesigning their website, marketing strategy, and building their lead generation channels as this is written. And most impressively, there has been a shift. They are leading their business, feeling a reasonable dose of fear, and coming from a conviction and strength inside of them that took several years to get to. This experience reflected to me real leadership: willingness to feel fear and take action.

To follow Seth’s wisdom and message to all of us again: What is the essential confrontation that you are having right now with yourself? What has been your particular wrestling match to get bigger than as a business leader? The good news is that we are each given daily opportunities to get bigger than our fears by getting into relationship with them.

Here are two upcoming opportunities to overcome your own leadership and management challenges in a supportive and transformational environment:

Business Leadership Intensive on August 2nd in San Francisco:


Eventbrite - EMyth Business Leadership Intensive

Creating a Culture of Ownership: A Business Leadership and Management Intensive August 16 and 17 in Boulder, Colorado:


Eventbrite - Creating a Culture of Ownership: A Business Leadership and Management Intensive