Disciplining our Fear

In an interview just after Nelson Mandela’s death, Trevor Manuel said something beautiful of his experience of this great statesman. He said “Madiba disciplined his anger.”

For me, it is a profound statement. Its simplicity barely hides the latent power. We should all discipline our emotions, and the first point of order is disciplining our fear.

In the South African context of today, unfortunately, our politicians did not follow in the footsteps of our hero. Where Mandela focused on the improvement of all, todays politicians focus on the improvement of a selected few. The ripple effect of this, is that people act out against lifeless statues. Anger born out of the shared experienced of current injustice, is directed to historic injustices. In my mind, mostly because of denied fear.

This fear can be of many things – the fear of not being part of the select few that benefit, fear to admit that we made a mistake in voting as we did, fear that there will be discriminated against us. No matter what the fear – we need to discipline our fear.



Fear is a primary emotion. Any emotion, if not trained tend to hurt us. Just like riding an untrained horse, could end in injury, not training our emotions tend to hurt us. Contrast this to the joy and freedom that riding a trained horse brings.

Disciplining our emotions also brings freedom. Especially when we discipline our fear.

Fear wants to protect us. The survival function of fear is protect us from a threat. So when we experience fear, we should ask ourselves: “What is threatening me?”

Then, when we identify the threat, then we need to add the discipline by asking: “Is this threat real or imagined?”

Please, I invite you to pause and think about this. Most of what we fear, is imagined. Threats created by the media, other peoples insecurities or agendas, our own biases and stereotypes. Yet very few are life threatening. Sure life is full of dangers, but so what?

Again, I invite you, start believing in your own ability to overcome any obstacle, more that believing the popular gossip that was designed to enslave you. You are stronger than you think. Even if you lose everything that you hold dear – you will be able to start again. You have it in you.

Now, I challenge you. Confront your fear. This is the only way to overcome it and tame it. This is the disciplined way to act. This is courage, to proceed in the face of your fear. Be courageous.

A few month ago, I grew afraid of a certain group of people. When I realized this, I phoned a friend in that group and drank some tea with him. Now I have perspective. Like in any group, the majority are kind and friendly. the minority voice their fear in anger. I disciplined my fear.

With courageous discipline.


3 Steps 2 Authentic Leadership

The world we live in yearns for authentic leadership. We are tired of empty promises from leaders that protect the status qua. A status qua where only the elite few benefit. Beneath our addiction to a consuming life style, we yearn for realness.

So let us stop yearning. Let us become authentic leaders ourselves and create the change we want.

Allow me to share, what I think, are 3 important building blocks in becoming an authentic leader.

1. Know yourself

To be authentic you have to know who you are authentic about. Sounds a bit like stating the obvious, but there is a significant center to this.

Authenticity asks that we accurately distinguish between the persona or mask we use and who we really are. Our persona act like shields that we present to the outside world. They are our first line of defense against possible harm. They are useful in that they create space for us in which we can choose how to act authentically.

That said we also need to be aware of the traps associated with these persona. One trap is over identification were we can start believing we are our persona. People overly identify with what they project to others, attaching unhealthy importance to the acceptance of these persona (for example you would rather be dead than be seen without designer label clothes). Secondly these persona can be ineffective. A person can assume a persona of being weak and incompetent, thinking they need to manipulate people to get what they want, or the opposite, having a persona of being so strong and that nothing touches us so we do not need anybody’s help. Persona that harm us on the long run are unhealthy. So we need to distinguish between them and our true self.

Our true self is our beautiful self. This self is the scared self, the self that offers our unique strengths to the world in servitude, fully acknowledging the risk that this service will not always be appreciated. This self knows its limitations and thrives in the space that these limitations create.

Authentic leaders live from their true self.

2. Have a clear vision

Authentic leaders have a vision of what can be. They see a future with possibilities. They have a deep knowing that today’s reality is not all there is. They understand that in the greater evolution of the universe, change is the only constant. They harness this slow and sure force to bring about improvement.

They also understand that sustainable change, is change were everybody benefits from. Therefore they resist the natural pull of accepting that “this is as good as it gets”. They also accept the responsibility of changing for the improvement of all. Even when reality shouts accusations of insanity.

Martin Luther King had a dream; Nelson Mandela understood the future reality of a multiracial South Africa. These leaders lived with a faith that compelled and captured them to create the new reality they saw.

3. Know and use the power of vulnerability

Vulnerability is the twin sister of authenticity. They are the two sides of the same coin.

Paradoxically authentic leaders also acknowledge their own weakness. They are honest about their doubts and they looked for the courage to share it appropriately. And in this vulnerability, sharing their doubts and fears, they offer people the chance to join them in driving the change everybody seeks.

Every authentic leader is afraid. Fear is our friend. It wants to protect us. But it also keeps us in the same place. Sometimes we need to proceed in the face of fear. For on the other side of our fear is the strength we yearn for, on the other side of that which we fear is our liberation.

Being vulnerable does not equal weakness. Inside vulnerability lays a deep core strength. One that knows that hurting is temporally, a strength that stakes its life on the ability to bounce back no matter what. This strength taps into the deep knowledge that things change and that change brings renewal, second chances, and the ability to try again. This strength strangely liberates us from hurting. It allows us to be our true self; it gives us the courage to follow our dream as it cuts off the strings that hold us back.

With vulnerability