Brian Sanders

Leadership Endurance “Face Your Fears”



His name was Jeff Chambers. 

He was my sixth grade arch nemesis.


He was athletic.

I was not.


He could do fractions.

I could not.


He towered over me by at least a foot.

I was as wide as he was tall.


On this particular day, the tension exploded. Yep, two sixth graders fought. In a side yard by his house, we tumbled and tossed with fists flying.


I surrendered in defeat.


Walking home, I wondered what my Dad’s reaction would be. Like a scene from a movie, Dad was at the door when I got home.


“Boy, what happened?”


My lip was bleeding. My chin was cut. One eye was swollen.


I explained that Jeff had beaten me up and I had lost the fight.


In his best Dad voice he proclaimed, “Well son, climb back on that horse. Go back to his house, knock on his door and when comes outside…whip his butt!” Let me be clear…Dad didn’t say butt.


So, I leave our house, rallied with new confidence and march to the Chambers home, which was one street over.


I knock on the door.

Jeff answers.


And right there…in the front yard…he wins again.


I go home and Dad sees me.


I’ll never forget what he says, “Well son, Dad gave you bad advice that time.  Come here, let’s get ya cleaned up before ya momma gets home.”


Even as I type this story, I’m laughing. There are some leadership lessons in it.


First, Dad was right. We must face our fears and battle them. Even if they knock us down we must rise back up and square off again. Leaders don’t lie in the dirt defeated. 


Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


In his own way, that’s the lesson my Dad taught me. Success wasn’t staying down. Even though Chambers knocked me back down again, at least he knew I was willing to face him.


Second, Dad was willing to admit he made a mistake. That’s key for leaders. Instead of justifying why he sent me back to Jeff’s house, Dad owned the decision. This is something that is hard for leaders to do. We want to be seen as right, flawless, all-knowing and visionary.


In reality, we need to be seen as resilient and battle-worn, but unwilling to quit. We must let the team see us as human–riddled with flaws and making mistakes, but moving forward and trying to do things right.


Be like Dad…face your fears…not once, not twice…but over and over again. 


Also, when you stumble…own it. Your team will take more risks and own their mistakes because of your example.


Brian Sanders serves as Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio. He regularly writes and speaks on leadership topics. His new book, “Leadership Endurance,” can be purchased HERE.

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