Many people who call themselves leaders are only posing. They're wearing the label or accepting the title without putting their skin in the game. I invite you to approach the act of leadership as you'd approach an extreme sport: learn to love the fear and exhilaration that comes with the territory. And that takes a personal commitment.
As Terry Pearce writes: "Many people think they want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with 2,000 pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar."
If you choose to leap into the ring, do so because of your love of the challenge and adventure. Love is what makes the fear of the "sport" worthwhile. You accept the fear as part of the experience, and fear creates and defines the experience. Extreme would not be extreme without fear, and fear would not be worth it without the love of the game.
The same is true of extreme leadership--the dynamic interplay of fear and love. Those who actively use the experience of fear and love daily in their attempts to change the world for the better are extreme leaders.
Extreme leadership is intensely personal and intrinsically scary. You are striving to change the nature of things, and that's a scary endeavor because you're asking yourself and others to give up the familiar. It is scary because you have no guarantee of a positive outcome and don't know how you are going to be judged; your credibility is on the line. Therefore, you can't participate in an authentic leadership experience without fear.
While it's true that fear can save your life or keep you from doing something stupid, avoiding it can also keep you from doing something great, from learning and growing. Fear is a natural part of growth, and since growth, change, and revolution are all on the extreme leader's agenda, fear comes with the territory.
Your experience of fear (or exhilaration) is your internal indicator that you're moving in the right direction--that you are leading. If you're using all the buzzwords and reading all the leadership books, and holding forth at every meeting on the latest management fads, but you're not experiencing that visceral churning in your gut, and you're not scaring yourself every day, you're not doing anything significant--let alone changing the world--and you are not leading anyone else.
Next time I'll describe how extreme leaders can take a radical LEAP (love, energy, audacity, and proof) daily.
Steve Farber, author of Greater Than Yourself: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership, the president of Extreme Leadership, is a leadership consultant and speaker, and the author of the national bestseller The Radical Leap, and The Radical Edge.
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