Category Archives: Fear

5 for Leadership

Here is a fresh 5 for the third week of June.

4 Reasons They Don’t Want to Learn . . . and 5 Suggestions  If you are not already following Ron Edmondson on a regular basis-you should.  Ron provides some great insight about how to approach non-learners.  These insights can apply to a leader at any level-includeing the parent!

1001 Mid-course Corrections  I have highlighted Jesse Lyn Stoner before.  I really enjoy her posts because they are so relevant and practical.  This one is no different.  In this post she highlights the reality of change in the midst of pursuing your vision that will require some mid-course corrections.  This post includes a brief 2 minute video.  She concludes the post with some excellent evaluative questions.

Leadership Caffeine-Look To Workplace Partnership to Support Growth  This post comes from Art Petty.  This is a great post on the value of peer level partnerships for personal growth.  I find that personal growth and development is an area that is all too often neglected in the life of a leader.  Art offers some great “do’s” and “don’ts” for building these kinds of beneficial relationships.

Authentic Leadership Development: You Past, Present and Future  This is by Dan McCarthy on his blog Great Leadership.  I like this post because I like how Dan especially highlights the value of one’s leadership journey.  Dan takes a holistic look at how your past influences your present leadership and your future leadership.  He also highlights being over doing.  Take a look.

The Revealing Power of Fear  I will conclude this post with some thoughts from Dan Rockwell.  He hits on a topic that I think on often-leading from a foundation of fear.  I am finding that this is a common leadership disease.  Dan offers some very good insight about how to move away from this impostor.  He also provides some very good evaluative questions for discerning and dealing with fear.

There are the 5 for this week.  Lead well!

Saint Patrick-The Person Behind The Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of those strange holidays we mark without truly understanding the meaning behind it.  Culture largely celebrates with alcohol and green.  But there is a story of a man that God used greatly to draw a people to Himself.  It is a story of inhumanity being turned toward salvation.  It is a story of courage to face your fears.  It is a story of obedience to calling.  It is a story of leadership.  It is a story we need to contemplate today.

I don’t usually do this-but for this post I will link to another web site for telling this story (  I will get you started.  Follow the link and finish the story.  You will be encouraged.

St Patrick was a Christian missionary. Two authentic letters from him survive, the only universally accepted details of his life. When he was 16, he was captured in Britain by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland. He escaped, returned home and became a bishop. He later returned to Ireland, but little else is known. By the seventh century, he was credited as the patron saint of Ireland.

Here is the link for the rest of the story.

LQW: What are the causes, dangers, and implications of fear based leadership?

A few weeks ago I posted a Leadership Question of the Week on courage.  Now I want to discuss the other side.  As I mentioned in that pose, I often see leaders lead in fear.  I see it in contemporary life.  I see it in the Scriptures and I see it in me at times.  So the question has been put in the title:  What are the causes, dangers, and implications of fear based leadership?  I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

3 Leadership Derailers

Earlier this week I began to think about aspects of a leader’s life that cause them to go off track.  What ultimately causes a leader to fail?  What causes them to make bad decisions, personally and in the mission?  What most hinders them in their relationships with those they lead and those they seek to influence?  Three aspects came to mind.  These three “leadership derailers” can show themselves in very obvious ways or in subtle ways.  But over time they will severely negate a leader’s influence.

1. Fear-I have talked before how I think this is one of the greatest threats to any leader’s life.  A leader who leads from a base of fear will make many bad decisions.  Usually fear is not tied to a leader’s circumstances as much as it is to the threat of their sense of significance.  When a leader feels threatened in their leadership they become afraid.  But the very presence of fear reveals something about the leader.  It reveals that the foundation that they have built their leadership upon is the wrong one.  This aspect of a leader’s life speaks more to who they are as a leader.  It speaks to why they lead.  What foundation are you building upon?

2. Anger-A leader who regularly exhibits anger does so because of blocked goals.  When ever any of us experience a blocked goal their is the opportunity for anger.  We want what we want.  Often this expresses something relationally in the life of a leader.  We see a person behind a blocked goal.  It could be animosity towards someone on the team or towards someone we seek to influence.  But the person may not really be the problem.  Over the years I have tried to maintain a perspective that “there are no problem people, only people with problems.”  The real question may be whose goals are you seeking to reach?  Are other people really the enemy or are they a part of the goal equation for development and blessing?

3. Discouragement-A leader who is discouraged is usually so because of the results.  It is difficult to throw yourself into something and not see the desired outcome.  Results are sometimes deceiving though because they could reflect the wrong measurements or the wrong timing.  Results are simply a measurement and are most helpful towards learning-not always toward leadership assessment.  But when a leader leads from a base of discouragement it will be very difficult for those around them to sense hope, clear direction, and energy toward the vision.  Discouragement is as contagious as courage.  Do you have the right measurements?  Are you learning or are you wrongly internalizing?

The wrong leadership foundation can lead to fear.  The wrong goals related to people can lead to anger.  The wrong measurements or use of results can lead to discouragement.

For the spiritual or secular leader-only the gospel can cure our brokenness and bent towards functional saviors that cannot provide what we need to lead well.

Fear & Dismay in the Life of a Leader

There are at least four places in the Old Testament that state, “Do not fear or be dismayed”.  Every instance is directed toward a leader.  Why?  Because in each instance, whether faced with a foe or some great challenge, there is the very real opportunity for fear and dismay.  Fear and dismay are two enemies that knock at the door of every leadership opportunity.

The dictionary defines “fear” as a “distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain; anxiety”.  Most leadership decisions or endeavors have these possibilities in the mix.  But why are “fear” and “dismay” linked?

The dictionary defines “dismay” as “the breakdown of courage completely, to dishearten thoroughly”.  In other words, one leads to the other.  Dismay is the logical consequence of unchecked fear in the life of a leader.  Stress and anxiety can lead to a complete breakdown of courage-rendering a leader passive or paralyzed.

The common biblical response to the possibility of fear and dismay is to “be strong and courageous” out of the “withness” of God.  It is the realization of God’s very real presence that chases fear and dismay away from the life of a leader.  In the Old Testament under the old covenant this “withness” could come and go.  But in the New Testament this “withness” is permanent because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  As we turn our potential fear into prayerful trust we can tap into the powerful presence of Christ so that we can take the next leadership step by faith.

Do all that He has called you to do!

Living in Fear or Certainty

Earthquakes in Hatti and China.  Landslides in Brazil and Kenya.  Floods in Tennessee.  Oil spills in the Gulf.  A volcano in Iceland that disrupts travel and almost takes down an industry.  Terrorist plots in Times Square.  Economic upheaval and political meltdowns.  The threat of renegade nations with nuclear capability.  And then there are our daily lives.  It is easy to live in fear these days.  I have begun to wonder if one of the downsides to social networking and a truly connected global society is that we are over aware of life in a fallen world.  We know everything in real time.  I am watching people shrink back-trying to protect and insulate themselves from any harm.  Whenever I travel to the States I become keenly aware how afraid people are of Islam and immigration.  I don’t mean rational awareness and thoughtful dialogue-I mean fear.  No doubt the media plays upon this.  Most of the “good” stories are predicated upon fear.  And I can fall prey to the unending barrage of knowledge that presses in on me and tries to force me into hiding.  Where do we turn?

As a follower of Christ I have a true alternative.  God’s revelation in the Bible points me to a sovereign God.  This is never more evident than in Psalm 46.  Listen to how the psalmist begins: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear . . . ”  The writer goes on in verses 2-5 to take note of nature and all of her fragility.  But he points us to the Creator who put it there in the first place and reminds us that He is in the midst of all created things.  This is not pantheism-this is God who is in control and is taking all of history towards His ends.  In verses 6-7 the psalmist addresses the threat of nations.  He accurately describes how they can “rage” and “totter”-but with one utterance of God’s voice they melt and do His bidding.  Verse 7 reminds us, “the Lord of hosts is with us.”  The “withness” of God is a very strong theme throughout the Old Testament and finds its culmination in Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  And note that it is the Lord of hosts-this is metaphor for our Warrior God with all of His heavenly army-a picture of total strength to match our fear.

The psalmist gives us three antidotes to our fears over a broken creation and a broken political world:  “Come, behold the works of the Lord”,  “Be still and know that I am God”, and “The Lord of hosts is with us”.  First he tells us that the One who created it all is still in control of it all.  Second, he tells us that God will be exalted among all the nations and in the earth.  Third, the One who is transcendent is also immanent-meaning the One who is all powerful and able to control is also deeply personal and able to meet us where we are.

If I pay more attention to the media of our day than the living media of God’s word then I will continue to retreat.  But if I “behold”, “be still” and rightly consider then I will engage in faith and confidence that the God of the universe revealed in Jesus Christ is in control and is with me in all that He calls me to do.  The true alternative to fear is faith in the one true living God.

The Heart of the Matter

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”  I am involved in preparing some training for emerging leaders in Europe.  The first installment will take place this June in Latvia.  The content for this particular experience will focus on the “being” of a leader.  Within that heading we will take a strong look at character and missional thinking.  We are using the metaphor of a mirror to encourage each leader to look inside before they look outside toward the vision of the mission.  Scripture also uses the mirror metaphor in a couple of places to encourage similar thinking.  James notes that someone who only hears the Word of God and does not act on it is like one who looks at himself in the mirror-but forgets his appearance once he walks away.  Instead James holds up the “mirror” of the gospel-the prefect law of liberty-as a right reference point.  James is encouraging our gaze at Christ as a transformative center for living life.

But notice what Proverbs 27 says.  There is a proper “mirror” experience that we need to have occasionally.  A leader I once served under use to say that we need to live “the gaze glance life”-where we gaze at Christ continually and occasionally glance at ourselves.  Our narcissistic culture would have it the other way-where we gaze at ourselves constantly-and look almost nowhere else.  But the occasional glance is necessary and revealing.  We do need to look inside at times to see what is true of us-we need to look into the mirror of our souls.  Proverbs 27:19 uses this reflection analogy to make a point.  Just as a reflection in water reveals what is truly there-so the heart of a person reflects what is true of that person.  Now this presupposes a Hebrew concept of heart-not a western view.  We tend to think of the heart as merely our emotions or passions.  But for the Jew the heart was more holistic-it included that mind, will and emotions.  The heart was the governing center of a person’s life-it was where one decided.  Therefore the heart is the man.  And whatever is in the heart will be true of the man-and will be observable eventually.

I want to apply this to leadership.  This past Friday I had the privilege to teach some leadership character principles to a group of staff and interns here in Italy.  They are a talented bunch with great potential for the kingdom.  But if they, or I, get this one wrong-that potential will be greatly muted.  A leader cannot lead out of something other than who he or she is.  What is in the heart will be reflected in a person’s leadership.  As I ponder my own leadership life and that of others-there are three primary enemies that a spiritual leader (or any leader for that matter) must be keenly aware of:  fear, pride and isolation.  Again, the Proverbs offers us great insight to these things.  Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  This was never better illustrated than in the life of Saul, Israel’s first king.  I believe his primary downfall was leading from a foundation of fear.  Fear can often appear as bravado-but will lead to poor and hasty decisions and great destruction.  Proverbs 29:23 says, “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”  Notice the play on words-it is about lowliness-one form is chosen and has a reward and one is forced upon you and has devastating consequences.  Hezekiah, a king of Judah who started out pretty well, was bitten by pride which led to his destruction.  Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgment.”  We have seen this through the media all too often-this is where moral failure often shows up and ruins a leader’s platform.

When you consider these three enemies you will note that they overlap one another-one can easily lead to another.  Where does one go to fight fear, pride and isolation?  Remember that the last half of Proverbs 29:25 says, ” . . . whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  Every leader (and every follower of Christ) needs a foundation of safety to live out our broken, yet redeemed lives.  But safety is not found in a place but is in a person.  Safety is ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ.  I believe this is one of the primary messages of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament.  And our doorway to that safety is the gospel.  Through the gospel we enter into the atmosphere of grace and forgiveness that will allow us to be authentic and humble-to chase after courage, humility and community.

In relation to these three enemies-what does your heart reflect?  How is it showing up in your leadership life?  I know I still have work to do-but I find my hope in the grace of the gospel.