Leadership – Understanding Fear

We’ve all been there, the feeling that the world is crashing in around you, things just aren’t going right. Maybe it’s a major ‘tabloid worthy’ mistake you’ve made or a series of gut wrenching events that have you feeling anything but happy. You’ve taken a fall. It’s in this state that we feel most vulnerable and unsure of ourselves… but it’s also a wonderful opportunity!

As Leaders, how can we better understand a fall and more importantly, how can we learn to harness its power? If we examine the body’s response to a fall, to the fear associated with risk, it’s flight or fight response, then we start to grasp how we can harness this to overcome adversity.

Since 2008, we have been privileged to have worked with Macka Mackail’s Rap Jumping; experiencing, understanding and even encouraging people to fall… off a building… under controlled circumstances of course. What’s Rap Jumping I hear you ask? Think of abseiling, face first, just like the picture above shows. If you’d like to see what it’s like, watch the video.

On thousands of occasions, we’ve seen people fall, we’ve the most primal effects of fear. From this, we’ve also learnt that experiencing fear and a fall isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, when it comes to Rap Jumping, being prepared to take that leap and place absolute trust in the resources around you can lead to a wonderful thrill. The principals we’ve learnt from this apply perfectly to leadership. Let’s examine how.

Rap Jumping

Fight or Flight Response

We’ve seen all sorts of human reactions at the top of the building as people prepare to go over the edge for the first time. It truly is amazing to see the physiological effects on the human body when fear and courage are tested in such limits.

We’ve seen people cry, we’ve seen big strong blokes quiver with fear, people forget left and right, stop and go, we’ve even had a German girl no longer able to interpret English even though she spoke fluently… all because the brain tends to ignore everything it considers non-essential in dealing with it’s immediate need, it becomes totally focussed on working out how to get down the side of the building.

As an instructor, it’s then important that we find the right personalised message to immediately build enough confidence for them to go over the edge. Some people need distraction, others need a quiet voice, some need everyone cheering, it’s all a matter of tailoring to the individual need. And once they get over the edge and work their way down, the success of their accomplishment oozes out of them!

Likewise, when it comes to Leadership we need to be aware that one size, doesn’t fit all. Quality Leadership is recognising the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals around you and working each of those aspects to bring out the best in the entire team. Find the relevant personalised message that will build confidence quickly and encourage your individuals and your team to rely on the resources around them to create a thrill rather than a spill.

It is also important to recognise the effects that heavy workload and high stress can bring out in people. Similar to the fight or flight response, under tough conditions, your staff may become so focussed on one single thing that all else falls by the wayside. Physiologically, they simply may not be able to cope with anything else. So be aware of this, be aware of the human need before the business need. Can you channel that focus to the benefit of all? As a leader, if you see one of your staff doing it tough, take them out for a coffee, give them a kind word, ask if they need assistance. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t cost much in time or effort, yet it might be the simple support they need to face the situation they’re in.

Here's the important part

One of the things we love about Rap Jumping is seeing the irreplaceable ear-to-ear smile when someone conquers their immense fear and abseils down the wall. The adrenalin has them pumped up, and the endorphins and dopamine put them on a natural euphoria, an incredible high from over coming the obstacle before them. Their body rewards them for challenging itself and facing the unnatural situation with courage.

If failure (or a fall) in the organisation is only ever punished then why would anyone attempt to try the thrill of doing something new? In Rap Jumping, safety is first, every system is double and triple checked, there is no room for ego. This is why it’s safe for people to fall, we encourage them to do so and the system supports them.

In your organisation nurture a breakthrough culture so individuals know that if they try something never done before, the systems in place will have their back if they fall. Likewise we must celebrate the wins, enjoy the times when we have conquered stressful projects or high pressure deadlines, or even better, produced a breakthrough!

The principles of Rap Jumping apply to facing a fall, overcoming an obstacle and conquering tough times. Rather than cower in the face of difficult situations, we can use them as an opportunity to learn so we come out the other side with full confidence. Build these attitudes into your organisational and leadership culture:

  • Be prepared to take a leap.
    Have systems of trust in place that mitigate risk from a fall.
    Personalise the message for individuals to build confidence.
    Put the human need before the business need.
    Celebrate, unashamedly, the wins and the successes of individuals and the team.
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