10 Ways Leaders Can Overcome Fear

Let's face it. Fear is real. Perhaps you've felt it rise up in you with questions like,

  • Will I disappoint my boss?

  • Will I lose my job?

  • Am I doing a good job?

  • What if I make a mistake, and I lose people's trust?

  • What if people realize I don't really know all the answers and think I'm a fraud?

  • What if this isn't really my calling, and I fail?

  • What if I disappoint God?


If you have asked yourself these questions, then congratulations, you're normal.

Believe it or not, the presence of fear (even as a leader) in your workplace does not mean your workplace is unhealthy or that you or those leading you are somehow flawed. Fear is common to all mankind.  The good news is, with these 10 insights to managing fear, you can overcome fear and help those you lead overcome it as well.

1. Recognize the Purpose of Fear

I read an article recently that said "Fear serves no purpose."  And while I understand the author's point, as a Christian, I believe that fear does indeed have a purpose; a purpose manipulatively designed by the devil himself.  Simply put, we must recognize the purpose of fear is to distract us from the work God has created us to do.

2. How You Respond to Fear Matters

There are some pretty common responses we all have to fear, responses that are deeply ingrained in our genetic makeup.  They are responses that tell us to tuck our tails and run or to stand our ground and fight, regardless of who goes down in the process. Being aware of our fear and how we personally respond to it will help us combat its effect and power over us. It is not the presence of fear, but our response to fear (both as leaders and as individuals) that matters.

3. Be Aware of the Lizard Brain Response

Seth Godin refers to our inherent desire to run away from fear as our "lizard brain," a word phrase I love because it totally communicates the primal nature of this response.  Perhaps you know this better as "fight or flight" but I think Seth is dead on with his description. And in truth, it reminds me to laugh at myself sometimes when I respond to fear in this way. Be aware of when you're in your lizard brain.

4. Release Your Stress

Fear creates stress, and stress makes us selfish, self-righteous, judgmental, and paranoid.  And trust me, no one wants to be friends with THAT version of you. The more stressed you feel, the more you give into the effects of fear.  It's a vicious cycle. When you feel stressed out, find a release for your stress.  Take a walk, take a break, read a book . . . you know what works for you.

5. Don't Go Viral

Fear creates in us a viral response. I'm not talking social media viral response here folks, I mean a good ole' life-sucking virus.  Fear creates in us an actual physical response. It begins with a knot in our stomachs, a heaviness in our chest, a weight on our shoulders, and spreads, well . . .  like a virus, causing us to isolate ourselves lest others notice we are worried, withdrawn or worse yet, silently and passively angry.

6. There *IS* a Healthy Approach to Fear

As I said earlier, fear is real and it exists in the healthiest of environments.  Understanding your response to fear is important, but it's equally important to approach fear in a healthy way.  Ignoring it won't make it go away.  Freaking out doesn't get you anywhere.  Approaching fear with a healthy and godly mindset is not only possible, it's necessary.

7. Acknowledge it

In his book, Practicing Greatness, author and renowned leader, Reggie McNeal says, "The single most important piece of information a leader possesses is self-awareness.  Great leaders are self-aware." This is especially true when it comes to fear.  Recognizing that your thoughts and questions are rooted in fear is so important to how you respond to those thoughts. Simply acknowledging that fear is present can allow you to respond to it in a healthy way, making clear-headed (vs. boneheaded) decisions.

8. Expose it

I like to remind myself that when it comes to anything that is rooted in evil, darkness and silence are constant companions.  If fear's purpose is to keep us from living out God's purpose for us in our lives, then it makes sense that it would want us to be silent about what we fear.  Finding a trusted advisor or friend to talk with about your fears is so important to exposing them to the light.  Being open about your fears and responding to them in a healthy way brings freedom.  

9. Speak truth over it

It is important for us to take a healthy look at our fear; acknowledge its presence and adjust accordingly, reduce its power over us by talking about what we fear, and then call it what it is, a lie.  The best way to overcome any tool of the enemy is to speak truth.  When you sense fear speaking to you, speak truth.  (IE: "People are not going to lose trust in me.  That's fear talking.  God has called me to this work." etc.)  Yeah, I know, it's basic, but we so often overlook the power of simply speaking truth.

10. A Word About Fear-Driven Environments

And lastly, I would be completely remiss if I didn't address the fact that real, fear-driven environments do exist.   Fear-driven environments are often that way because the leader lacks the ability to lead effectively and can control the organization with those tactics. If you are in an organization that is fear-driven and cannot effectively change the culture, you have to decide whether your calling is there or if you need to break free.

Great leadership requires a constant willingness to be transformed into the person we were created to be. By being aware of the source of fear and how it affects our perspective, we can use these insights to overcome fear and joyfully live out our purpose and our calling.

Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington is the COO for Propel Women and helps people be more successful in business and life.

Gifted with a knack for identifying trends early on, a voracious reader and self-taught businesswoman, Alli’s influence extends from Fortune 500 companies to international humanitarian organizations to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Her dynamic style and expertise in productivity, marketing, branding and digital strategy make her sought after counsel. And her insights on balancing motherhood, career and marriage have led to appearances on Good Morning America and The Today Show multiple times.

Alli lives outside Nashville, TN with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and their rescued dog. Most flat surfaces in their home have one or more of the following on them: books, sports equipment, legos and, quite possibly, a little dog hair.

Connect with Alli on Twitter @Alli, Facebook and Website.

Join the discussion

Jennifer March 21, 2015 at 10:02pm

This is something I need to read weekly. I let fear take me captive too readily, and its purpose IS to distract and create nothing but a negative atmosphere; it's the devil's "go-to" with me, and while I know this, working towards overcoming this has still been a challenge. But I press on and work towards taking the godly approach and reminding myself that "He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world"...if He be for me, who could possibly be against me?!

Thank you for this article!



Anastasia February 11, 2015 at 10:28am

Great tips! Simple reminders but so important to remember!
It'd be great if you could elaborate on these!

Dory Alonzo February 10, 2015 at 10:37am

Thanks Alli for a timely reminder that fear has a purpose. There is only 1 fear that we should embrace - that is our reverential fear of the Lord. All others are served by the devil to distract us from God's goal for us in any endeavor or pursuit. Our God is a God of encouragement and He wants us to press on towards our goal and win. God's perfect love for us casts out all fears. Our confidence is in Him so fear not!

Julie February 10, 2015 at 2:58am

Alli, Thank you for speaking into women's lives right where we live. I just went through a event that was very stressful and I let fear take over. It was good to read your article and resolve to not let that happen again. I know better but I let something too close to home push me. God's word and and His love always overcomes fear. God bless you!

Andrea February 9, 2015 at 6:57pm

My calling has been a work in progress almost a year. As I wait for the govt to approve us I start to slide into fear. Thank you for the reminder that I am an amazing leader and God brought me to it and will bring me through it.

Patricia February 9, 2015 at 2:00am

These are very practical points and normal examples of daily struggles, fear isn't real until I let it take root. Thank you Alli and staff, God bless you!

Vanessa February 9, 2015 at 1:47am

Great article!

Rosa February 8, 2015 at 3:25pm

These steps are really powerful ! Thank you so much :)

Heather February 8, 2015 at 5:34am

The Lord has been teaching me about SPEAKING to things and I couldn't agree with you more that we too often overlook the simple most basic principles. Well done.

Diana Davis February 8, 2015 at 4:50am

I really needed this today. I've lived in fear most of my life and have had terrible anxiety attacks as a result of it. I have learned that when I feel fear, to run to God's Word and rely on the Holy Spirit to encourage me and keep me in peace. Staying focused on His Word gives the enemy no power over me. I can do what I need to do facing my fear head on knowing that the God of Angel armies is with me.

Melissa Gambin February 8, 2015 at 3:12am

This is a great article, thank you for sharing. I do believe it's important to note that we have the Holy Spirit and God given wisdom that makes us hesitat. This can sometimes be labeled as fear. Living without an ungodly fear does not mean living without wise judgement and discernment. In a Godly context, fearful feelings can prompt us to pray, seek wise counsel, and make wise choices.

Liz Baraka February 8, 2015 at 2:26am

Perfect love indeed casts out fear... It's something I'm dealing with currently so this is a timely article for me. I love it, at least I've got tips on how to overcome this..

Rhonda Madge February 8, 2015 at 2:05am

It is a game-changer when we understand that fear is a distraction to keep us from the work God has created us to do.

Hanna-Mari Vuorinen February 8, 2015 at 2:04am

Thank you so much for this sound and solid teaching and coaching on the subject of facing fear in leadership. Very much appreciated! It's wonderful to realize other women are facing the same issues I am, and that I'm not alone. Absolutely loved the practical aspects of how to move on when facing fear and how to learn from this experience.

Melissa Newman February 8, 2015 at 2:01am

I just experienced this and allowed it to take hold, knowing full well it's not what God wants me to be. Day after day, reaching for that goodness that's planted in gods grace; only receiving darkness from those around me, led me to want to just give into the meaness. It is not what we are here for, thank you for the encouraging words!

Cris Carter February 8, 2015 at 1:53am

Bravo & Thank You. This affirms everything I have learned over the past 30 years in the workplace and through my attendance at Leadership conferences and training. Embracing biblical truths and what has been discovered and learned through the study of business, psychology and human development is long overdue. Thanks for putting in writing for those women leaders coming up in our world, these steps to understand and overcome fear. This will be life changing when put into the process of everyday living.

Lisbet (Betsy) Wood February 8, 2015 at 1:00am

Great article even if you're not a leader. Blessed me, thanks.

Anne February 8, 2015 at 12:43am

THANKS so much! This just comes at the RIGHT time, as I'm preparing for my first freelance-job, asking myself all the preface-questions for WEEKS now (even though I should know better...). Think I will spend all the time thats left from preparing with speaking truth over it...
May God bless you just as you are a blessing for so many of us in bringing this!

Lacie Partney February 3, 2015 at 6:42am

Thank you so much for this! I truly needed that today. xx

Maritza Rivera January 30, 2015 at 2:48pm

Excellent points! Perfect love casts out fear so rely on Jesus!