Volume 45, December 2004: Driving Out Fear

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2004 ISSN # 1545-8873

“Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather he determines himself whether he gives in to conditions or stands up to them.” — Victor Frankl

“Every time we act, even with our fear, we make room for others to do the same. Courage is contagious.” — Lappé and Perkins

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmoon


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Driving fear from the workplace.
  • Replacing fear tactics with trust-building strategies.
  • Openly voicing concerns, questions, conflicts – discussing the un-discussables.
  • Speaking and acting the truth.
  • Creating an environment of psychological safety.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

It is easy to fear someone who holds our destiny in their hands. Leaders in positions of power are scanned by followers for signs of trustworthiness or lack of it. Look at all the failings of prominent leaders of late. Is it any wonder that reports cite that “Americans trust no one.” To create trust, you have to drive out fear. Be aware of your gray behaviors (see checklist below). Notice your own fears (which are communicated). Learn to lead without power. Not to control collections of human resources, but to create dynamic communities of free people (Max De Pree, 1997).

Frequently Asked Questions

“Isn’t avoidance the common approach to fear?”
Yes, but not the healthiest. The most frequent response to danger or conflict that I have observed is the deer-in-the-headlights response – freezing. Fear stifles creativity, learning, innovation, involvement. How helpful is this to people and organizations? Fear may mean danger, but it can also be a signal that there is a lesson at hand. Susan Jeffers teaches us to lean into the fear and learn. Lappé and Perkins coach us to shift from “fear means stop,” to “fear means listen closely.”
“Our fears are mostly social – our deepest fear being isolation, losing one another, disconnection. What is the real possibility that we will be set out from society?”
How do you change a culture of fear? Style of communication influences whether and how change occurs. If communication is guarded, secretive, discounting, discrediting, threatening – mistrust, loss of pride and fear are the result. Competition ensues. No learning occurs here. This is a closed communication loop. If, on the other hand, communication is open, self-disclosing, active listening with intent to learn, true dialogue – trust, risk-taking, and collaboration are the result. And a genuine commitment to learning. If fear and mistrust are entrenched, many repeated loops of open communication will be required before people start believing you.
“I am not an aggressive, abusive manager. What do employees have to fear?”
Kathy Ryan’s audit on fear-causing behaviors arranges them on a continuum of light gray to dark gray, abrasive to abusive.

Light gray.

  • Silence
  • Glaring eye contact: “the look”
  • Brevity or abruptness
  • Snubbing or ignoring people
  • Insults or put-downs
  • Blaming, discrediting, or discounting
  • An aggressive, controlling manner
  • Threats about the job
  • Yelling or shouting
  • Angry outbursts or loss of control
  • Physical threats

Dark gray.

These can range from low to high intensity, making even subtle gray behaviors very threatening. Ambiguous behaviors can be as threatening as abrasive ones. Check yourself. (Ryan & Oestreich, 1998, p. 59-66).

“Are there other behaviors leaders should cultivate, to drive out fear?”
  • The extent to which you are seen as human and vulnerable (authentic).
  • Demonstration of acceptance of individual differences.
  • The extent to which others are involved in decisions (collaboration).
  • Sensitivity to the needs of others.
  • Willingness to address the sacred cows, the “un-discussables.”
  • Consistency of behavior – “walking the talk.”;
  • Valuing criticism, never “killing the messenger” of bad news.
  • Communication positive intent and nurturing a safe environment through the use of positive norms.


Fear Means Go workshops: http://www.uhavethepower.org/workshops.html

Keyzines on: Mediating Conflict, Trust & Integrity, Pride in Work, Effective Listening, and Valuing Diversity.

Nice piece on Fear, Trust and Teams: Trust and Teams

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Games for Mastering Fear.

Change Management Toolbook.


Books are linked to Amazon.com descriptions:


Buy MK’s latest book!