The Power of Fear?

Hang with me for this article. It ought to pay off in the end.

One of my best friends, Dr. Jeff Baker, is a clinical psychologist. He’s also a Leadercast 365 contributor. (Check out his latest course on mental health here.) 

Jeff and I were having dinner a few months ago, discussing what motivates people. He told me something that has stuck with me. In some ways, it’s counterintuitive to so much of what I read in leadership books. He asked me what I feel the best leaders use to motivate people. I answered with something like,  “Vision…showing people a preferred future.” His response was a confident “No.” 

“Ok, so what then?” I asked.

“Fear,” he replied. “People will always be more motivated by fear than aspiration.” 

I didn’t love hearing that, but it resonated as true. I immediately thought of all the negative, fear-driven leaders who have convinced millions of people to follow them. All with awful results. I felt kind of sick, to be honest.

“Good leaders just learn to be afraid of the right things,” he said.

I’ve thought about that almost every day since as it relates to Leadercast. I know the answer to what actually scares me. I am afraid of people following leaders who are not worth following. I worry about living in a world full of leaders who are self-centered and unable to access empathy. I worry that those I love will end up following someone who doesn’t see them as a human full of potential. I worry about leaders who worship success, money or fame. I don’t want to live in a world where those sorts of leaders win. The stakes, as it turns out, are sky-high.

If you’ve ever had a “bad” leader at work you know where it leads. The stress comes home. An awful leader at work has a ripple effect on our partners and children and friends. We spend most of our lives at work. We all deserve to follow a leader worth following.

That’s why I wake up every morning to do what I do. I have a list of aspirational hopes for Leadercast, but it’s the fear that really motivates me. Every human being matters. Every person deserves to be led by someone who sees the best in them and will even sacrifice for them. If enough of us believe that, then the world will start to change. If we don’t, we’re in trouble.

So, let’s be afraid of the right things. 

And then let’s lead so well that those fears begin to give way to our aspirations.


Joe Boyd

Leadercast CEO Joe Boyd is a storyteller and entrepreneur. Before Leadercast, Joe led Boonrise, a highly successful creative agency, and production company. He is passionate about leadership development and speaks about improvisational leadership, storydriven living, and embracing failure.

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