Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.
– Marianne Williamson
This quote opens a beautiful writing, Our Greatest Fear by Marianne Williamson. Although she is known for inspirational writings, she gives a gift to leaders in these words. I quote it on a regular basis to leaders who find themselves afraid to act. When asked what is frightening them, some don’t know. Upon further query, what surfaces is not fear of taking action, but fear of what others will think about them if they do. Having been personally impacted by this dynamic, I am very interested in helping leaders release this specific fear.

Fear of what others think about leaders is one of the greatest obstacles in many companies supported by Gwen, Inc. Rather than stepping boldly towards goals, leaders hold back. Rather than saying what needs to be said, leaders hold back. Rather than standing in truth, leaders work against their values. This behavior is paralyzing, leaving leaders feeling inadequate.

Something truly powerful happens when leaders release concern over what others think. This very action positions leaders to be powerful beyond measure as Williamson describes. The most poignant part of this writing for me is “your playing small does not serve the world.” People trapped in fear of what others think always play small, because it is terrifying to play big when concerned with reactions from others. What can leaders do to address this fear?

Develop a personal mission statement. Use it to focus on you, not others. The personal mission statement becomes a reference point. Read this document and ask, am I willing to allow someone else’s opinion prevent me from being my authentic self? Repeated response to this question enables leaders to develop the skill of making their own opinion more powerful than the opinion of others.

Stop holding back. If your head, heart and spirit are clear, then something is right for you take an immediate step regardless of what others have to say. Being fearful of others’ opinions becomes a habit. The way to break a habit is to begin doing the opposite. Don’t hold back.

Ignore all noise and press on! I first heard this concept in an interview with former First Lady Michelle Obama. She was asked: “how do you keep going in the face of so much criticism?” Her response went something like, “I know who I am and block out negative opinions of others. I ignore the noise and press on!” Being criticized comes with leadership. Given this, leaders must learn not to take everything personally. People love to talk, let them. The leader’s job is to know who they are, and in spite of negativity, press on.

Thriving in the current business environment requires bold, powerful beyond measure leadership. The challenging times we live in can’t be addressed by leaders who play small. Ignore all noise and press on doing what you have been called to do as a leader. You, your family, community and company will be better for taking this bold leadership step. What others think of you is not your business. The only business a leader needs to mind is what they think of themselves.

Copyright 2017 Gwen Webber McLeod