Posts by Chris M. Sprague

International Transformation and Empowerment Ambassador and Best Selling Author Until next time - Be Inspired … Be Empowered … Be Transformed, - - Chris M. Sprague (w) - (p) 855.746.4267 Ranked in the Top 1% of most viewed LinkedIn Profiles for 2012 Author of The Secret Blueprint to More (_____*) Until we speak again – here are four truths to live by. 1. You deserve to live a life of fulfillment and happiness. 2. You have the power within you to co-create the life you deserve. 3. Make each day the best day of the rest of your life. 4. Transform your thoughts and you will improve every area of your life.

Leading Through Fear

Leading Through Fear

It happens even to the best and most experienced leader – fear.

Facing Your Fear

It may be a fear of the ‘Great Recession,’ a fear that your position or career is in jeopardy, a fear that you personal life is suffering or the fear that you may have chosen the wrong profession.  The fear may be on your mind every day or it may be hidden in your subconscious.

Whatever your fear is and wherever it may lie, if you’re a leader, you still need to present a picture of strength to the people you lead.

So – how do you do it?

“As fear is based on something that we think may happen in the future, it is clearly a mental process which tries to predict the future – in that sense, the reason of fear is a projection of our mind.View on Budhism

Leading through fear requires two basic things…

  1. Always presenting a strong and confident public persona
  2. Fully understanding, confronting, and moving past your fears.

Public Persona

Present a Strong and Confident Public Persona

ConfidenceAs a leader, you are looked at to provide direction, coaching, mentoring, vision, strategy, and many other things for your team.  For an inexperienced leader who is facing fear for the first time, providing the things your organization needs can be difficult or even impossible to accomplish some times.

Most young leaders who experience fear for the first time while leading either struggle with presenting a strong and confident persona and not feeling like they are lying to their team or revert to a controlling and almost dictatorial style of leadership.

What they don’t realize is that, internal struggles like those in option 1 can be paralyzing and cause them to be inefficient leaders and extreme measures like those in  option 2 can lead to them losing team members and possibly even their job.

Presenting a strong and confident persona while experience fear is neither lying nor being two-faced, it is in fact, a skill that every great leader must develop.  Great leaders aren’t the ones who avoid fear or never fear anything, they are the ones who feel fear, confront it, use it to push them to great decisions and pull their team through.

“Regardless of the route we choose, fear is a fact of life. Although many of us have been taught that fear is negative, fear can be a good emotion. It is like a warning signal to be aware, to be prepared. Managed effectively, fear can teach us to look out for ourselves and make decisions that are right for us.” Find a Mentor

When leading through fear, a leader must also avoid turning into a dictator and trying to control everything.  While this desire to control everything is a natural reaction to many fears, it can also lead to more conflicts and issues than it solves.  In short – while controlling things make us feel better, the feeling of being controlled by someone else is not a very good feeling for people around us.

Understand, Confront, Move Past your fears

First – determine if the fear is real or imagined.

This is sometimes difficult to accomplish – especially when it comes to a work situation.  For example, you hear about layoffs at the company where you work.  Your team hears the same rumors as you do and confronts you about them.  At the beginning, everyone is feeling the same fear – the fear of being laid off.  However, until you get conformation one way or another, you must present a confident persona to your team and give them the confidence they need to continue performing at a high level.

At this point, the fear of being laid off is technically real.

As time goes on, you are told by your direct manager that the layoff will not affect anyone in his/her group.  You hold meetings with your staff and let them know that you have been told that you’ve been told the layoffs will not affect them group.  As long as you have built trust within your group, they will believe you and their fear will subside.

More time passes and it’s announced that your division will be going through a re-organization and that, in a few weeks, you and your entire group will be working for another manager.  This is scheduled to happen after the layoffs are basically complete.

At this point, the fear of being laid off could be either real or imagined.

More time passes and the unfortunate happens, as the transition to the new group is in progress, someone is laid off.  This is bound to create tension in the group and leave people in a state of fear for their own jobs.  They also may begin to distrust management as the layoff for your group has become a reality.

Second – if the fear is real, confront in head on.

Now that the fear of someone in the group being laid off has become reality and that they group knows they may be next, a number of things must happen.

First, you must explain to the group why the layoff hit your group when you said it wouldn’t.  Everybody understands that things change. Everybody understands that business changes and sometimes deeper cuts are necessary.  Also, everybody understands if an organization is re-evaluated and found to be too heavy in one area or another.

The key here is to be open, honest and transparent.

Second, you must start to rebuild trust.  Maybe take the team out for lunch or host an offsite event.  Your team will need time away from the office in a non-threatening environment to voice their questions and concerns.  Possible even consider involving Human Resources or another third-party to ensure all fears, concerns, questions, and so forth come to light.

Only by acknowledging and confronting our fears can we move on.

So what is your experience with leading through fear? Do you have challenges at your organization when frightening news is rifling through your team’s psychological network? What do you do to calm fears and bring people down a calmer path? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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Learn by Sharing

Typically, when people start blogging, the first thing they think of is sharing their ideas with other people. They may think how wonderful it will be to help somebody else or they may think how great it will be for people to know who they are or they may think about how much fun it will be.

However, what most people don’t think about when starting to blog is what they will learn from the experience.

One of the pleasant side-effects from blogging is being able to learn from your own mistakes. Sometimes just putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) is enough to bring about a realization that there are things you’ve done in your career could have been done better. In some cases, blogging can even lead to an epiphany (that one moment that make you go “Ah-ha, now I get it!”)  Other times, it takes a bit more thought and time than just putting fingers to keys.

Whatever the case may be for you, one of the techniques that works very well in getting to that ‘ah-ha’ moment is taking some time to quietly reflect on your blog posting and the topic your blogging about.

According to Peter Drucker, one should… “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Some people also partake in the practice of Reflective Meditation.

Hey Einstein, Think About It

You may ask – why not just think about what you’re doing while you’re doing it – which is an excellent question. Many people do think before, during, and after doing something.  However, normally, when people are in the act of “doing” they are not also in the act of “learning.”  This is because the mind for most people is so engaged in the act being done that it is not open to receiving new information or learning new and different ways of doing things.

A great example of this is talking and listening at the same time. Think of how many times you try to tell a person something and they just don’t seem to get it. More often than not, this is because they are either talking (either out loud or in their head) or they are already thinking about what they are going to say next and they are not fully receptive to what you are saying or the ideas you are trying to convey to them.

Especially in this day and age of doing many things at any given time (multi-tasking), it’s becoming more and more important that we slow down and start spending time thinking and reflecting on the things we do. Blogging is an excellent way to do just that. In the end, to get the most out of your blogging and learning experience, blog about your previous experiences and see what you can share and learn.

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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You’re a Leader – Now Grow Up

Measuring Heights

While people get into leadership and leadership roles for many different reasons, one thing that most leaders go through is the realization that their thoughts and actions need to be matured over time.  Some leaders are lucky – they realize this before anyone knows how immature they really are on the inside.  However, the vast majority of leaders unfortunately do not realize just how immature they and their actions and ideas are until it is too late.

In some cases, the immature leader does not even know he or she is immature.  They do not think (or sometimes do not have the time to think) about their words and actions and analyze them to a point of realization.

This is especially true when a previously technical superstar, sales producer extrordinaire, or production master wizard becomes a team leader.

Meaning – some of the same skills that make a person technically excellent (the ability to develop great ideas, the ability to think of an answer before anyone else, etc.) can be a huge detriment to a leader.

hile sometimes a leader is required to come up with new and innovative ideas, more often than not, the way a leader can best serve his or her team is by enabling the team members to come up with ideas of their own.  Sometimes this is done by allowing the teams to come up with their own ideas.  Other times, the leader can ‘seed’ the team with the beginnings of a new idea and then let the team run with it.

When a team creates an idea, the leader will have the opportunity to either be a self-serving and immature leader or a mature, serving leader.

As Nic Oliver wrote ( Business : Tip of the day – Developing Leadership Maturity)

Mature leaders (and people generally) demonstrate humility when presented with a great idea. They are appreciative, supportive and encouraging. They have let go of the need to be the ‘expert’, the source of all knowledge.

The immature do one of several things:
1. Dismiss it only to re-present it later as ‘their’ idea.
2. Feel threatened that they had not thought of it.
3. Say something like: ‘So what, everyone knows that!’

This quote really gets to the heart of the matter and illustrates wonderfully the mentality of an immature leader.  Most immature leaders who read the above will say – “I don’t do those things. Especially when it comes to creating new ideas, everything I come up with is always 100% my own.”

What some immature leaders do is to purposely not fully listen to other people and even go so far as to “forget” that someone suggested an idea just so you can suggest the same idea later on.  Contrast this with a mature leader who makes sure his or her listening skills are developed and make mental (or physical) notes when he or she hears a good idea.  Then, when the idea can fill a need, goes back to the person who came up with the idea, has them implement it and give them all of the credit.

Next time your manager comes to you and asks for something from your team, give some thought into how you will get your team to create the solution.

If you feel you need to be part of figuring out the solution, figure out how you can ‘seed’ the team with some ideas.  Then, let them water and nurture the ideas until they are beautiful flowers.  Then, make sure you give the team all of the credit.

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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Don’t Talk Too Much – Clarity vs. Transparency

Big Ben's Insides

How many times have you been in a meeting and somebody asks a seemingly simple question that deserves a simple answer, but they get something much more complex? An example of this would be the question: “How’s the weather?” Instead of the simple answer like “Nice and sunny,” the person answering decides to give a monologue on how beautiful the sky is, how warm the air is, and how the weatherman incorrectly called for rain today, etc.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of telling someone how to build a clock instead of simply telling them what time it is, you’re probably succumbing to the tendency of Full Transparency and forgetting the fact that what most people are looking for is Full Clarity.  Let me explain…

A blog written by John Maeda & Becky Bermont called Leaders Should Strive for Clarity, Not Transparency explains the difference between Full Transparency and Full Clarity…

“Full transparency is access to all the facts.”

“Full clarity is access to understanding the facts.”

Hidden in the above definitions is that full clarity does not mean revealing all the facts – just providing your listeners with the access to understand the facts.

Also, let me stress that this does not mean you should hide anything from your team or your company. You also don’t need to give every one every little detail on how you came to a decision.  What you do need to do is to give your team and any associated stakeholders the right amount of information in a timely manner and ensure that they understand the decision you reached and the information you are providing. Clarity is often about brevity and balance.

If you are about to ask a question and want to insure a brief and clear answer, be sure to say “Just the headlines, please.

From personal experience, I can tell you that trying to reveal all the facts and all the nitty-gritty details will – more often than not – bore your audience and very quickly get them to quickly tune you out.  Unfortunately, no matter how incredible/valuable/important a fact or piece of news is, if your audience has already tuned you out, they will miss it.

Now – what was my message…

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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Self-Serving Leadership

A few years ago, I was listening to an audio book Masterful Leadership – Leading Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and was introduced to the concept of servant leadership.  Up until that time, I was like most managers and leaders I had known and had not given any thought to ‘why’ I was leading – for me or for my team.

This made me think very much about what I was doing and why I was doing it. It made me examine my motivations and forced me to come to some clarifying decisions that really began to impact my life and my outlook.

Was I serving myself, or was I serving others?

Self Serving from Wikipedia

“A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure.”

Self Serving from

“Self-serving is an adjective meaning serving ones own selfish interests, especially at the expense of others.”

It’s easy to take for granted that you’re leading to serve your team and your company when the decisions you make are good for the company.  It’s also very easy to rationalize decisions you make that put both you and your team in a good light as the decisions of a servant leader.

However, ask yourself this question: “If you received absolutely no credit for the decision, would you make the same decision in the same way?”

If the answer is ‘yes’, then the decision is most likely a servant-leader one.  If the answer is ‘no’, the decision is most likely a self-serving one.

To give yourself a different way of looking at things, ask yourself these poignant questions: Do you procrastinate just so you can look like the hero?  Do you do it without even knowing?

Answering these two questions honestly can be good indicators of whether you’re a serving or self-serving leader.  If you procrastinate when making decisions and sometimes wait so long that you are the only with enough knowledge or technical skill to do what needs to be done in a short time, you are most likely being a self-serving leader.

So, you might ask yourself this: “Will being a self-serving leader hurt my career chances?”

While no one can say with absolute certainty, I can tell you from both personal experience and direct observation of previous co-workers it’s a very good possibility that being a self-serving leader will slow your career growth and progression.

Serving or Self-Serving. Which one will you choose?

Do you have examples of outstanding servant leaders? Or, on the other hand, do you have examples of questionable self-serving leaders? How can you spot whether someone else is a servant leader or a self-serving leader?  Please show your servant leader heart and share!

Chris Sprague is a Visionary Servant Leader
He strives to bring out the best in everyone
Email | LinkedIn

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