Being good is all about our core VALUES as a person.  Every one of us has a set of core values.  Our values have been built from a young age into adulthood.  From day one, the people that have raised us, our parents, relatives, guardians, and friends, have been IMPRINTING values upon us.  When you were young and impressionable, you were just young and impressionable. Remember words like these: “Show respect for your sister; that type of behavior may be okay for your friends, but not you; do your chores, everybody does their role in this family.” Those words instilled the values of respect, strength, and hard work. Take a minute and reflect on words you may remember from your childhood. Now let’s fast forward from your childhood to, if appropriate, parenthood. As a parent, have you ever heard your parents voice come out of you as you talk to your kids?  Most parents have, and it’s cute and scary all at the same time.

In living and leading a fearless life, values are an integral part of navigating and overcoming fear.  In life, when things are good our values are beneficial and positive. However, when a crisis strikes, tragedy sets in, a roadblock is thrown up, and the value of your values skyrockets. I’ve always felt that you learn more about a person when the chips are down.

It is really interesting to reflect back on the first global crisis I had to lead a company through.  It was September 11 and I was in the middle of a capital raise to keep our company alive.  It was also on the heels of the Internet Bubble bursting.  I was leading a struggling tech company in Silicon Valley that was running out of money and America just got hit by terrorists.  In fact, on September 11 we had investors from New York and Chicago in our offices in California and we became their hosts for over a week as all planes were grounded. In the face of adversity, the values that immediately struck were STRENGTH, COURAGE and FAITH.  Just a day earlier the company relied on its own strength, but today the company needed mine.  Everyone was shaken, and I don’t mean professionally.  We were all shaken personally and as Americans we were literally numb. As a company we pulled together for our employees, served our clients, but more importantly served our community, all while we were struggling and running out of cash.  We were courageous in the face of fear and had faith that if we did the right things, good things would happen to us. We made it through September 11 stronger as a company and closer as a family.  And our Fearless Leadership was rewarded with a successful capital raise and the company stayed in business and grew.

Being a Fearless Leader is built on being a good person and living your core values. Values are great in good times, and they are literally the super-glue during the tough times.

STRENGTH takes on many forms – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Fearless Leaders strike a balance and develop all aspects of strength. Stay healthy physically, stay sharp mentally, stay balanced emotionally, and stay centered spiritually. Building strength should be a daily habit, because fear, uncertainty, and doubt strike on their schedule, not ours.  And we must have reserves of strength to fight fear when it strikes unexpectedly.  Let’s think about a few things we can do across each aspect of strength:

Physical Strength – the four key ingredients to building your physical strength are food, exercise, sleep and water. Nourish your body with healthy whole foods, exercise regularly and appropriately to build your energy level, recharge your body with seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and hydrate your body to keep your immune system strong.

Mental Strength – the key to mental strength is finding sources and outlets. Sources are things that give you positive mental energy and outlets are activities you do to reinvigorate your positive energy. Common sources and outlets are escaping reality through reading books or watching a movie, physical activity that allows your mind to wander, spending time with loved ones that make you feel good, doing nothing so you can recharge, or self-care to help you feel recharged.

Emotional Strength – the key to emotional strength is to surround yourself with good people to remain balanced.  Invest in quality time with your family, connect and reconnect with your friends, stay in touch more on a daily and weekly basis, do something meaningful and memorable with your loved ones and those closest to you, and moderate social media, of which I’m sure you know exactly what I mean.

Spiritual Strength – finding your spiritual strength is very personal but also very key to becoming a centered and Fearless Leader.  It all starts with believing in a higher power.  Activities that can nourish your soul are as simple as reading spiritual literature or inspirational stories, attending a faith-based service, joining a spiritual group, and praying for goodness in the world.

Strengthen your fearless muscles daily and be the rock others depend on.

COURAGE is a value that is acquired over an extended period of time: the courage to lean into your fears and confront them; the courage to believe in a positive outcome amidst uncertainty; the courage to channel our mind, body and soul to overcome our doubts.

Throughout my career, I was always puzzled by the reason why some people got the corner office and some didn’t. Why promotions sometimes went to the most qualified person and sometimes didn’t. Over the past decade, I became a management scientist of sorts, looking into this issue. There were a few obvious findings and a few big surprises. The obvious things had to do with relationships, influence and emotional intelligence; see b MADE the next section. The surprises were just that—big surprises. Many people whose career fell short or didn’t receive the proper recognition lacked one mighty trait: COURAGE.

So, what does courage really mean in the context of your career?

Courage is the ability to seize opportunity and take bold action in the face of fear, uncertainty, doubt, difficulty, and/or danger.

I discovered that many of these people were not overlooked; they simply did not seize their moment. I unearthed instances where individuals had brilliant solutions to complex challenges but failed to take the bold action and present their idea. Underneath their epidermis layer was an overwhelming fear of failure, uncertainty about the outcome and general self-doubt. Just like running a marathon – no one just wakes up and runs 26.2 miles – you run a 5k, then a 10k, then a 10-miler, then a half-marathon and then the coveted marathon –  you build your conditioning just like your courage over an extended period of time.  Courage can be developed, and like a marathon can be conquered.  After all, it is simply the decision to take a bold action, even though it may be frightening. To truly have the career and life you deserve, you have to challenge yourself and to step out on a limb from time to time, face doubt, and have the COURAGE to FAIL.

Fearless Leaders have FAITH in themselves, faith in others and instill faith in those around them.  Fearless Leaders have the faith to succeed. They believe in positive outcomes, even when the facts and data suggest otherwise.  Faith may take different forms for people – it may be spiritual and religious, and it may also be sheer confidence and belief.  Faith requires Fearless Leaders to channel their powers when adversity strikes, when fear sets in, when uncertainty and doubt enter the room and when others begin to weaken.

Early in my career when I was living in Dallas and working for EDS, I got a call at home early in the morning requesting my presence in a meeting with my bosses’ boss.  The call made me a bit anxious, and a thousand thoughts started racing through my head. I lived close to the office so before too much fear, or uncertainty, or doubt could cloud my thinking, I was sitting in the big boss’s office.  After some morning pleasantries, he got right to the point, and gave me an extremely generous promotion.  Before the meeting was over, I asked a few questions. “Sir, I appreciate the offer, but I think there are others more qualified with more experience.  Can I have some time to think it over?”  His answer to me was swift and piercing: “There are lots of people with more years of experience, but there is no one that I have more faith in to get this done.  People will believe in you; you have the power to instill confidence in others. You are the right person. Now go get some work done and make me look good for this decision.”

That day forever changed my career and subsequently my life.  I seized my moment. The faith he instilled in me changed me as a leader.  Every day of my life I always had people that believed in me or that had faith in me, but this was different.  This wasn’t someone close to me, a family member or friend.  This was a big-time corporate executive that placed his faith in me and asked me in turn to have faith in myself.  As I left his office, I was literally on cloud-nine, my feet barely on the ground, and my mind a bit numb.  Leading fearlessly with faith as your co-pilot allows for others to feel safe, blessed and glad they are flying with you.

SERVE others relentlessly.  Fearless Leaders are willing and enthusiastic servants. They understand the sacrifice of service and the rewards for being the person who makes it happen in the background. Serving silently at times is challenging because we all want to be recognized. But, it is the intrinsic internal and eternal flame of serving a greater good that burns bright inside every Fearless Leader.  Serving others in life is like being on a Navy Seal mission – your journey will take you places you didn’t know, to serve people you didn’t know before and to solve problems you didn’t know existed.  And sometimes your mission is so covert, only you will know you were the person behind the victory.

Early in our careers, we tend to get the recognition for the tasks we perform.  We get asked to do X, we do it, we get told good job.  The recognition is an extrinsic reward and something we have enjoyed since receiving our first trophy or ribbon in Little League or horse-showing. As we make the decision to serve others as a leader, we are called to be the one rewarding others – handing out the ribbons, certificates and trophies.  We are the extrinsic givers, but true servant leaders are powered by a feeling of intrinsic joy when presenting others their recognition.

As you continue your Fearless Leadership journey, you will find more jockeying for giving out the certificates and trophies, and you may even be pushed to the background.  That’s the covert mission I mentioned earlier, the Navy Seal example, completing your leadership mission covertly and in the shadows of others. Embrace this, don’t fight it.  Serving others is just that, it’s about others and not self. All leaders understand this; it’s kind of intuitive, but sometimes when it hits home, we question why we do what we do.  Essentially, the questioning is doubt seeping in: “Is this worth it, why am I doing this, after everything I did?”  Think of service as something much bigger than yourself.  Serving others is a calling, the few, the proud, the Fearless Leaders.

HUMILITY is a value that shapes our legacy.  As a Fearless Leader, you will be successful.  Your fearlessness will get you assigned to the biggest challenges and greatest opportunities.  You will have the courage to seize these moments and your faith will prove you successful with exhilarating victories.  With victories come all types of rewards, recognition, and new opportunities.  As we discussed earlier, extrinsic rewards are promotions, recognition, awards, and press clippings.  Intrinsic rewards are satisfaction, joy, and motivation for the next opportunity. It’s important to experience both.  Success is one of the best ways to develop confidence in ourselves. Success is also impactful at removing fear from others, and therefore instilling confidence in our friends, family and colleagues.  When you are recognized with an award or press clipping telling the world about your success, that is a good thing so lean into it.

As a Fearless Leader, your accomplishment is the recognition of you and your team.  It will in turn instill courage in others that follow you.  Also, we live in a world of extrinsic rewards, and often times to be noticed so we may be presented with the next big opportunity to seize, we have to receive some recognition to be known.  Ever hear of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi?  I’m sure you have and can agree that they were all humble.  But their extrinsic recognition for their good work is what propelled each of their missions in life and allowed them to make an exponential impact. What I am trying to say is this: it is beneficial to be recognized for your victories so you can positively serve a bigger purpose in life.

Now let’s flip to another perspective. We all know somebody that enjoys being recognized a little too much, has built a trophy case in their office or home, and is constantly in search of personal recognition.  Leading for the purpose of being recognized and rewarded is not serving with humility. Balance is the key.

Fearless Leaders keep an equilibrium between their successes and their servitude. Fearless Leaders serve for the purpose of their vision in life, to accomplish something bigger than themselves and do so to benefit the greater good.  Fearless Leaders live for the humbling, but riveting joy of knocking down fear, crushing uncertainty, and disabling doubt.

LEADERSHIP is a value that stands the test of time and is summation of your life’s work.  LEADERSHIP is three simple concepts

  1. the willingness to accept responsibility
  2. to organize a group of people
  3. to achieve a common goal.

In the first concept, as a Fearless Leader, you must first accept the responsibility of any situation you are asked or granted to lead.  As your Fearless Leadership spreads, the challenges you lead will be tougher and the opportunities shall be greater.  You will face increasing degrees of fear, uncertainty and doubt.  But you will have built up your fearlessness and prepared for the ever-increasing challenges and opportunities.

In the second concept, Fearless Leaders are organizers of women and men into a team that is greater than the individuals alone.  As individuals we are strong, but as a group we are limitless.  Every year during the offseason of professional sports, I enjoy reading how much better one team has become or worse another team has gotten.  I enjoy it because there are no trophies for the offseason, and very rarely have the best individuals won championships.  And this proves the concept of organizing a group of people as a team because teams truly win championships.

And the last concept demonstrates how Fearless Leaders set their site on a common goal and achieve it through the strength of their team’s hyper-focus on that common goal.  The fearless leader accepts the responsibility of the goal, builds a team with the skills and experience to achieve the goal and lights the path toward the goal on a daily basis. Leadership is the greatest gift you can give yourself every day on your lifelong journey that provides you with growth opportunities that allow you to leave an exponential impact on the world.