Shhh…. If this ever got out, if anyone really knew the truth, this would be a game changer! Actually, this could be a deal-breaker. Leaders who lead in fear! A most undesirable mindset is fear, uncertainty, and doubt that has run amuk. We would like to believe that leaders have it all together. We desire leaders who exercise high EQ (emotional intelligence) and mental- toughness, but have you seen our political leaders lately? Currently, in the United States, our government is partially shut-down and both parties are being relentless about their position. They may think they are showing how “right” they are about what they want, but an underlying issue is related to the FUD Syndrome.
What is the FUD Syndrome? Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt
Fear, uncertainty, and doubt are the results of unchecked emotions. Not unreal, just unchecked. What you feel is real but if not properly addressed, it can become all-consuming and debilitating. Most of us know what fear, uncertainty, and doubt does to us personally. Imagine the impact the FUDS have on a leader. The overwhelm can be paralyzing and damage the effectiveness and reputation of a leader. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt creates crises and lingers long.
FUDS impacts the leader:
An unintended consequence to the FUD syndrome is an inability to see clearly; vision is obscured. Leaders are expected to be visionaries however the complexities of the FUDS intercepts vision for the future.
It blocks any ability to move forward causing stagnation in an organization.
As a result of FUDS it is virtually impossible to develop an effective organizational strategy. Until its abated, the business strategy will never be implemented.
The Impact of FUDS on the team:
Fear, uncertainty, & doubt is contagious.
Unethical behavior often are triggered because the vision of the organization becomes cloudy and the leader isn’t communicating the direction of the business
Fear of job security, and lack of confidence in the leader creates lackadaisical behaviors and
Turn-over increases which weakens the effectiveness of the organization
FUDS Trigger Antibodies
What comes to mind when you think of antibodies? Just like antibodies attack antigens to protect the body against invaders such as bacteria or anything foreign in the body, (this is obviously not an exact, scientific analogy) foreign concepts, new concepts, new opportunities are killed and destroyed by antibodies.
Antibodies are often those who’ve been in the business for years and are comfortable with how things are. They resist change, even if it’s beneficial for themselves and the organization. These busy bodied antibodies are afraid to learn something new, or are afraid to share what they know, and/ or stuck in a paralyzing fear mode that causes them to prey on innovation and anything different from the norm. They are creativity killers.
3 Dangers of the “Free Radicals - Antibodies” in an organization
Free radicals are unstable and damaging. If the leader is fearful of failure this fear spreads throughout the company and the naysaying antibodies mobilize and contaminate innovative progress ( Davila, T., Epstein, M. J., & Shelton, R. D. (2006). Making innovation work: How to manage it, measure it, and profit from it. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Pub.. This triggers division and distrust between departments. This disruption wrecks havoc and halts teams from freely sharing their gifts and talents that are typically expressed through innovation. When there is a threat to the traditional business model, antibodies show up (Davila, T., Epstein, M. J., & Shelton, R. D. (2006).
A faulty narrow- mindset spews doubt into an organization causing resistance to change, resistance to growth and ultimately resistance to productivity.
Sometimes it’s the leader’s unconscious influence triggered by FUDS that introduces the antibodies. Scarcity thinking or resistance towards change sabotages opportunities for improvment, effectiveness and success.
The best way to deal with antibodies is to eliminate them, even if it’s the leader!
Recognizing triggers and symptoms of FUDS
There are numerous triggers and symptoms of FUDS. A few that are common are:
Feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, insignificance, and irrelevance
Comparing oneself to others
Obsessed with competition
Fear of being left out (Fear of Missing Out- FOMO) or left behind
The imposter syndrome
And so many more!
Letting go of antiquated systems and processes in exchange for learning new ways of doing things often incites fear. These are reasons why organizations reach an impasse. Taking a risk on the unknown means exposure to possible failure, not realizing failure promotes growth.
If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will always get the same results! Hoping for a different result is insanity right? This is a common mindset trap.
Uncertainty causes opposition to explore new or different opportunities.
Leaders fear “loss of control” when addressing the unknown and tend to resort to what is familiar and predictable. Comfort and complacency are a cocktail for immobility. This mindset trap impedes risk-taking and it ties back to the “antibodies” in an organization.
5 steps to overcome FUDS:
These are practical and proven actions
Change your mind about the situation/circumstance causing the FUDS. It requires practice but can be achieved.
Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats) analysis. This is a great assessment tool that can be used for the organization and personally to enhance self-awareness. Identify both the strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to you and your business. Have your team do the same. Weaknesses and threats may be connected with the FUDS however, choose to shift your thinking. Begin to look at FUDS as an opportunity. Build your competency build your confidence.
Develop a plan of action- begin to address head-on the very thing that’s creating the fear. Stay relevant by increasing your industry knowledge and become a subject-matter-expert in your field. Take a personal development course and build areas of weakness. Just be proactive instead of reactive to FUDS.
Strengthen your spiritual life- it’s what girds you and sustains you in all other areas of your life, especially as it pertains to eliminating the FUDS. I am a Christian and rely on the Holy Scriptures to strengthen me and keep fear from overwhelming me. The Spirit of God brings me peace and Jesus Christ reminds us in His word that the peace He gives is nothing like what the world has to offer. The Bible addresses fear at least 365 times which tells me God knew humankind would need relief from anxiety in order to function in the earth. Many in the workplace find comfort in relying on their spiritual beliefs. Spiritual intelligence, SQ, the highest level of intelligence which relates to man’s relationship with God and man’s purpose in life. Incorporating SQ adds meaning and value to what man does and it answers the “why”? Understanding your purpose in the workplace and as a leader brings fulfillment. Employees are less stressed and tend to be more focused on doing well at work because they recognize the value they bring. Leaders who exercise SQ have the ability to problem-solve and make sound decisions without emotional influences.
EQ- emotional intelligence is the ability to stabilize emotions. Leaders who demonstrate high EQ knows how to appropriately respond to negative feedback and how to demonstrate even temperament, for example. High EQ leaders are agile and, like SQ leaders, are adept in problem-solving and making decisions. Leaders who are stuck in FUDS are too rigid and close-minded; prone to avoid complex issues but instead look for the easier, less risky options.
"If you are unsure of a course of action do not attempt it. Your doubt and hesitation will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous...” (“The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene) the Bible says in 1 Timothy 1:7 "God didn't give us a Spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power, love and self-control" (ESV). Instead of doing it or anything afraid, shift your thinking, reevaluate the issue at hand, and make confident decisions based on knowledge, evidence, even trusting your gut, which is different than relying on fear.
In my “ Bust the FUDS” audio digital training series, I provide a strategic process for overcoming fear, uncertainty, and doubt syndrome (FUDS) as a leader and your organization. This digital audio series comes with:
An audio guide
An interactive workbook that contains concrete steps to lead you and your organization out of stagnation due to FUDS, and
A BONUS, 30-Day Journal
To learn more, click here.
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Dr. E. Michelle Mickens