If you were to scour a proverbial cookbook for recipes on success, achievement, and effectiveness, you would find a myriad of essential ingredients. You will see passion, purpose, confidence, empathy, compassion, and vision. While other components may come and go based on the latest trends, there is one element which should never emerge in any credible recipe for success, and that is fear.

The term “fear” can be confusing to many because it has been historically used to represent a sense of awe and respect while at the same time, we use it to describe anxiety, distress, and a feeling of dread. While holding great respect to another person, especially one who is a mentor or teacher, is important, the fear that I am expressing in this post is that paralyzing anxiety that arises when we face the unknown. It is that strong feeling which causes us to doubt ourselves. It is that sharp and sulfur-laden breath that rolls over our shoulders, freezing us in our paths.

To deny its existence and influence on each of us would be a dishonest assessment of the human condition. The question is whether we allow it to draw us in, or we choose to destroy it. Either way, the intention, and the decision are ours. Fear cannot overcome us without our permission. Nelson Mandela once said that “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” When we allow fear to drive our choices and worldview, it manifests inaction, hatred, and jealousy. When we acknowledge fear’s presence and face it with intention, it produces constructive action, boldness, and love.

Recognizing our individual and perennial wrestling match with fear requires very little convincing to see it in our daily lives. However, identifying its manifestation in the leader-team dynamic can be elusive. Through a leader’s indecision, lack of transparency, and apathy toward their team (which are products of fear) breeds doubt and fear among the group; ultimately resulting in a toxic environment which results in mediocrity. Leaders who advocate the use of fear to motivate and control their teams continually struggle with low-morale, anger, frustration, and often distrust those who serve their agendas. John Lennon once stated, “When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.

To lead with love requires facing fear with faith and understanding. Stephen Covey, the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, points to the pursuit of understanding as one of these coveted habits. Marie Curie, pioneer of radiology, spoke of its fear-killing power, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” It is when we lead with love that we empower our teams, instill confidence in our leadership, and foster the boldness that is required to usher in an era of excellence and success.

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action produces confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.