The Fear of Speaking And Other Bermuda Triangles For Leaders

Ships and airplanes have mysteriously disappeared in an area of the East Coast of North America known as the Bermuda Triangle. Leaders have Bermuda Triangles that make them feel helpless and fearful; things like public speaking, writer’s block, criticism, failure, and decisions. Here’s how to overcome your Bermuda Triangles.

Here’s the deal. The Bermuda Triangle is a myth. It’s true that many ships have sunk and airplanes have crashed in that area. It’s also true that the area is one of the busiest sea and air lanes in the world. Insurance companies and the U.S. Coast Guard do not consider ships in the area to be at increased risk.

It’s the fear of the Bermuda Triangle, more than the area itself that messes with us.

5 Bermuda Triangles For Leaders

Leaders have their own Bermuda Triangles that make them feel helpless and fearful. Here’s 5 common ones:

  1. Public speaking. “I’m not a good speaker,” a leader told me. Yet she was very eloquent and clear when talking with me. This leader, like so many, feared speaking in front of groups. Like the Bermuda Triangle, it’s the fear of it that will keep her from becoming good at doing it. There are a few techniques that will help you be a better speaker, but it’s mostly a mental game to win.
  2. “Writer’s block” is like the Bermuda Triangle, it’s something we’ve labeled and are afraid of, but it doesn’t really exist. Writing is a discipline. Sit down and start writing. Give yourself a deadline. Write your ideas, but don’t worry about polishing as you go. You can always clean it up later. A few years ago, it used to take me roughly 8 hours to write a blog post. This one took 90 minutes.
  3. Criticism. The fear of criticism can keep leaders from stepping out and leading. We hold back because we’re afraid that we’ll be criticized and that will lead to conflict, lower morale, or a drop in sales. Every leader is criticized at some point. And it can hurt. Criticism isn’t the end, it’s part of clarifying what the organization stands for and the direction you’re going. If someone doesn’t like it, then it could be a sign that they are in the wrong place.
  4. Failure. Fearing failure keeps some leaders from succeeding. Sure, you should reduce potential risk, but you can’t succeed without taking risks. Failure can produce a lot of learning, learning that is necessary to succeeding.
  5. Decisions. Even with charts, data, and facts, decisions are a leap into the unknown. We know what we want to happen, but we don’t know what will happen as a result of our decisions. This ambiguity can paralyze leaders into indecision. They wait so long to decide that circumstances force a decision. That’s poor leadership.

The 5 Bermuda Triangles for leaders, because they deal with the unknown and uncontrollable, trigger our fears and insecurity. It’s largely a mind game. We can overcome them by acknowledging the emotions they trigger and reorienting our minds to the truth of our situation. You are experiencing what every leader before you has experienced. Great leaders push past the fear and lead.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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