Being a leader is a job requirement, and because of this, you can’t afford to let fear take over. Most of the stories we tell ourselves about why we can’t be leaders have fear as their underlying cause. We fear failing. We fear making fools of ourselves. We fear being judged. When fear paralyzes us we don’t move out of our comfort zone. Most everyone feels nervous and unsure in situations where you will stand out or do something new, but you can’t let that stop you..
Every leader knows the sensation of fear, myself included. Even after years of giving presentations, I still worry about getting to the site and having all technology work. To manage these fears, I plan, first by always arriving early and the second by arranging in advance for someone to handle the tech for me. Does it always work? Of course not. I once needed to give a presentation when we lost power.
You might not be able to let go of your fear, but you can take a first step by moving from fear to nervousness. That may not sound like much of a solution, but since fear tends to freeze you, being nervous can be more of a call to action giving you the strength you don’t always realize you have.
In an internet post, John Baldoni says Nervousness is just another word for fear: Deal with It! His four-step approach directed to the business world works just as well for us.
Prepare- It sounds obvious, but too often other tasks can distract us and we rush our preparation. Yes, if you are giving a presentation you prepare carefully, but do you do the same thing if you are giving a short workshop for teachers? How about if you are bringing a proposal to your principal? As the moment arrives, you become unsure and your fear takes over.
Another way to feel prepared is to be certain you know your audience. Whether it is teachers, an administrator or a larger group, you need to know what knowledge they have, where they are lacking, and what they are seeking. Then you can craft your message in a way they can receive it.
Deliberate- Much like Prepare, this ensures you have examined all the options. You’ve probably done the research to be sure you are focusing on the key elements but are you also knowledgeable about other aspects? If you are showing teachers a new tech resource, you know its features, but can you give them examples of how to integrate it into their curriculum and let them know how you will work with them?
When dealing with an administrator, have you considered other options in the event you meet with resistance? I once discussed with my superintendent an expensive purchase I wanted included in my next year’s budget. I knew I had to give something up. I had my best choice and an additional backup choice. Ultimately, I gave up both items and I got what I wanted. When I presented my recommendations for a library renovation project to another superintendent, I had costs for doing it in one year and also how to accomplish it in three years. One year may have been my preference, but for the administration, three was better.
Seek counsel- Don’t do it alone. It’s too easy to miss an important detail. This is the time to reach out to your Professional Learning Network (PLN) whether that’s in person or via social media. The various library-related groups on Facebook can alert you to all the possible pitfalls. Ask advice from those who have done it before. What worked? What didn’t? The more knowledge you have – the less fear there will be.
If you have a mentor, check in with them before and after. You’ll definitely want their advice before launching something that feels big to you. You also want to work with them to review how you did afterwards. It will make your next leadership step that much easier.
Persevere- You may fail. That’s what we always fear, but risk-taking and stepping out of your comfort zone always carries that possibility. The truth is – you can handle it. Take some time to nurse your wounds, but don’t let it keep you from trying again. In a short time, only you will remember that you didn’t succeed and people will be ready for your next initiative.
If you keep working to grow your school library and make it indispensable to the school community, you will have more successes than failures. Eventually, you will become increasingly confident in your abilities to lead the way. You will always have to deal with some fears, but you won’t let that stop you from leading.