Is Attenuating Fear Part Of A Leader’s Job?

There is a recent book out that discusses traits that make exceptional leaders. Although well written, it is similar to many business and psychology offerings. The exception is it discusses fear at some length, which I have not seen mentioned in books on similar subjects.

The book makes a strong case that one of the roles of an exceptional leader is to attenuate fear. There will always be things out of ones control, and for leaders this might include things like crises, calamities and combat. Traditionally, these matters have, at least publicly, been dealt with resolve and inspiring words and personal visits and the like. There is a certain expectation, not always met. Bush Jr. and Trump received criticism, justly or not, for their handling of certain situations.

Do leaders, of any type, have a duty to attenuate fear?

Where it seems to be leading to adverse consequences, yes - remember “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”?

But there can be occasions when it’s necessary to raise the alarm - provided that the fear it engenders can be channelled into positive action.

One might use Covid as an example. In the beginning there was more paranoia than information.

Do the leaders truly attenuate fear or do they put a comforting blanket on serious issues which will continue to get worse without intervention? Do the leaders create fears for their own ends? Do the leaders performances in crises serve short-term goals or long-term problem solving?

Recent American political history, say post-WWII, throws up scores of leaders rewarded at the time.Yet we are living through multiple crises that were played down in their day or invented for political reasons.

Ronald Reagan made a career out of attenuating some fears - and stoking others. Al Gore destroyed his career by being the leader on the most important issue of the century.

Hindsight should play a role in evaluating leaders and their abilities. But since history is being rewritten before our eyes whose hindsight will anyone trust in the future?

According to the management leadership training I did for my employment, yes - fear management is part of the job. We were taught an acronym: FEAR - Future Events Appearing Real. This was used to talking to our teams about change, and encouraging teammates to speak up with their fears, identifying actual risks, and discounting out-there concepts (“No, keeping to our scheduled breaks doesn’t mean we’re about to be taken over by another company”). The core concept was that change predicates fear, and if you can explain the need for the change and the anticipated outcomes, right at the outset - or ideally, before the change takes place - you can really reduce a lot of fear and anxiousness.