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All leaders are scared really…and that’s a good thing.

September 11, 2013

Ruth's Costa Rica Blog photo

I’ve just got back from leading an expedition to Costa Rica with 17 – 24 year olds.  I decided it was time to challenge myself and step out from behind my desk to get back in touch with what it feels like to be out of my comfort zone.  The expedition itself was deep in the jungle, in a tiny Cabecar village called Duserinak – a 12 hour trek from any civilisation or help.  I loved being there – the views, the basic conditions, the pigs, the challenge of building a school, the young people I was working with – and I was also scared, almost all of the time.  Scared that they would get hurt, scared that they wouldn’t enjoy it, scared that they would be disappointed with their experience, scared that I would let them down in some way.  It sounds like a nightmare doesn’t it?  But actually it was great for me to be scared.

Being scared helped me to think about myself and my own behaviours.  I was able to check-in with how I was communicating and if I was transferring my fear to the young people.  It helped me to notice how they were feeling and offer support and guidance.  It ensured that I focused on empowering them and allowing them to take responsibility for the success of the project.  It meant that we invested time in exploring our own personal impact and how each of us could learn and grow.  Overall, being scared made me a better, more caring and open-minded leader.  And the team that I was leading got far more from the experience than they would have done if I had not been out of my comfort zone and conscious of my own reactions and behaviours.

Many leaders get complacent – about their ability, about their experience, about how they communicate and lead.  And when they are complacent, so are their teams.  So my new motto comes from an old quote “Do one thing every day that scares you” (Eleanor Roosevelt). I might not be able to go to the jungle every day, but I’m excited about the possibilities for stretching myself.  And the great thing is, I know I’ll be a better leader for it.

Ruth Moody

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