I attended a leadership talk recently organized by BCA leadership where the guest speaker, Dr Mongezi from Africa Board for coaching consulting and coaching psychology (ABCCCP), posed this question, and the leaders in the forum, who were majorly senior leaders and executives across Africa, shared “Fear” and related sisters of “fear” as a significant obstacle. The next question that followed was, “What would you want to see as the future of Africa – one word?”. Most leaders again mentioned “Prosperous” and other related words.
These two inquiries caught me thinking a lot, and I am still at that point where I feel I need to dig deeper into conducting an empirical inquiry to understand this further. However, the two answers show the dilemma in leadership. Many of us leaders wish for the best outcome in our leadership, teams, organizations, nations and other fields. However, we are blocked from taking those steps immediately in our face by the aspect of our “Fear”. Fear is the Enemy!
Many leaders’ obvious counter-question is, “why should I push myself yet other leaders are not and are doing well?”
Our comfort zone is comfortable!
The reality is that this is also a known fact to leaders. They know that their comfort zone will not foster their growth. Many also know when they have reached their comfort zone but cannot move beyond it because of “Fear” and the related sisters of “Fear”, which are their disbelief, esteem, and self-confidence, among others. When leaders do the same things every day for a very long time, their comfort zone starts to shrink and somehow, the things that seemed comfortable to them start being uncomfortable. That is why we see that when leaders are stuck in the same position for a very long time, they start feeling uneasy, routine-like, and have this inner desire to move to a new role, either horizontal or upward, to move past that discomfort.
I later got hold of the below diagram from the internet (not my own), which helps to explain the concept of this article, “The Bumpy Road to Better”. When we challenge ourselves to undertake assignments, do uncomfortable things, and consistently stay on that path, we move from the comfort zone into the zone of fear but still soldering on consistently. The fear zone is where you are not clear of the outcome of your actions yet, but at least you are clear that if you consistently manage to pass through the fear, there is a likelihood of tremendous success ahead. At some point, the fear zone comprises failures, but when you fail forward and pick out the learnings and re-engineer yourself and your self-leadership, you will in no time push yourself to the learning zone.
I remember it took me much time due to fear to step out and start my full-time Coaching and Consulting practice in Change Leadership due to fear. I had a lot going on in my mind. How will I take care of my family? How will I manage to cover my so addicted hgh monthly salary when I leave formal employment? Is there a market for me, among other fear-related queries? However, I still soldiered on, with my laid-out plans, having faith and belief in my vision – “Building a movement of leaders whose power of influence will far exceed the authority of their positions” and here I am, a few years down the line, having touched many lives, impacted many leaders across Africa and the Worl and provoking many emerging leaders to live and lead their purpose and blessed to have both global and regional recognitions in the process.
Imagine, if I had not taken the Bumpy Road…what would have happened to all leaders and emerging leaders we have bumped across along the journey? What would have happened to all those young leaders I have interacted and have enjoyed a piece of my journey? What will happen to those organizations I have supported to redesign their structure, strategy, culture and are doing well now?
As individuals and leaders, we must always understand that the Bumpy Road we go through is for the Better. If the road were smooth and there would be no fear, then there would not be any revolution today. There would be no inventions and innovations that have been there and are still to come. All great things come with sacrifice, sacrificing to soldier on even with fear. The consequence is to cry during failure and pick up the pieces and still push ahead – fail forward. The consequence of engraving your purpose and vision deep inside you is still dynamic enough to walk the journey in cognizance of the dynamism presented.
Anything worthwhile is uphill – John Maxwell.
There is no improvement without challenge. To keep the focus and grow past your comfort zone, to fear zone to learning to growth zone;
- Do what needs to be done more consistently. The more focused you are on the purpose and vision, the more likely you will release your fear and pick the learnings in the process.
- Do it more intensely. Once you find your rhythm, keep intense, and have an open mind for learning and picking out what needs to be resolved along the journey. However, keep the intense higher. This is what pushes you beyond the learning zone.
- Do it for a longer period. The learning zone is not a run-quick zone. It is a cyclic zone of persistent learning and unlearning untill you become the expert – The Power of Focus!
In the whole process, as you walk through this journey – The Bumpy Road to Better, always ask yourself the following questions that I borrowed from Marshall Goldsmiths: Are you doing your best to:
- Be happy along the bumpy road to better?
- Find and sustain your purpose and meaning as you move towards better.
- Be fully committed and engaged in walking the bumpy road to better.
- Build valuable relationships with others who might be critical enablers to push you beyond your fear zone to your growth zone.
These ingredients can enable you to move beyond the fear zone to the growth zone in any situation. These are the enables to help you understand that your Bumpy Road is for the Better if you keep the focus, consistency and valuable relationships along the journey.
About the Author
Gilbert Ang’ana is a Global award-winning Change Leadership Coach & Consultant and the CEO of Accent Leadership Group, a Leadership Consulting and Advisory firm championing Leadership Advocacy in Africa and Beyond through Coaching, Training, Speaking and Research. He has authored four books, including an upcoming “Engaged and Productive”. He is also an adjunct lecturer of leadership at ACTs University in Rwanda. Interact with him through LinkedIn and learn more about his organization at www.stepafrique.com