For many people one of the biggest challenges they face when becoming leaders is the fact that the overall performance of their team falls on them. Some find this pressure too much to deal with and obviously as we hear the phrase 'crippled by fear', and fear of failure can be detrimental to performance, if you let it.
One of the nuances of leadership is that when an individual member of your team does well, then the senior managers single them out for praise for their performance, however when the team misses its target the buck stops with you. Unfortunately, this is just something that comes as being a leader. Professional football now is renowned for being a managerial merry-go-round due to the competitive nature of the market. Individual players play well and win are rewarded with accolades, whereas in teams who are underperforming, the chairman doesnt sack all the players, they sack the manager. Which means the consequences of 'failure' are potentially catastrophic.
Now you can either use this as a reason not to challenge yourself in a position of leadership, or you can embrace this 'fear of failure'.
Failure is perceived as a threat and we are biologically programmed to deal with any threat in one of 2 ways, this is commonly described as the ‘Fight or Flight’ mechanism. The ‘caveman’ reaction of either attacking a threat head on, or turning and running away!
The major player in this internal mechanism is the amygdala, which is a collection of nuclei in the brain that control the body’s stress response. It is responsible for emotions, survival instincts and memory. Hence it receives information from your eyes or ears and then thinks back to whether you have ever experienced this before. If your eyes are sending the information that there is a sabre toothed tiger walking around the corner then it will remember that this is a threat and therefore trigger the suitable physiological response.
The response is a sudden release of adrenaline into the body which creates that feeling we can all associate with, increased heart rate, sweaty palms and your skeletal muscles all tighten up ready to either pounce and attack or run. Your clarity of thought also decreases as you feel under pressure and so this can lead to out of character decision making or judgement.
This effect on the body puts the internal environment in to a state of stress which if continually repeated obviously is not a healthy environment to be putting the body under. Another reason for this is that another one of the effects of the adrenaline release is that the body releases stored energy in the form of glycogen into the bloodstream so to give you the energy should you require it. However, if your threat is the fear of failure, then you are not going to have to go and attack it (literally) or run away from it and so this additional energy resources won’t be used. We know from the multitude of health experts and fitness gurus on social media that excess energy is stored and converted to fat that is stored around the organs, known as visceral fat, which is incredibly dangerous for long term health and is linked to numerous health conditions.
So with all this in mind, you don’t want to be impacted by the ‘fear of failure’ because you will constantly be putting your body under stress. With that in mind how can you change the way that you view this failure and embrace what you can learn from it. I am sure you can think about a time where you have felt this and it not conducive to winning either on the sports field or in the office. Successful leaders have the ability to remain logical in these circumstances and not let their amygdala take control, they have the ability to ‘manage the mist’. This logical thinking ensures clarity under pressure, but how can you change what you naturally perceive as a threat? Here are our 4 steps to embracing failure and using it to grow;
In summary, one of the biggest challenges leaders face is the added pressure of having to take the responsibility of an entire team rather than just your own. This pressure can sometimes lead to a lack of clarity and poor judgment as the fear of failure takes over. However rather than letting this threat take over, embrace failure, plan ahead and start winning consistently!