Why Fear Is Not A Factor For Intuitive Leaders

Digital Leadership Principles

“Intuition is like a Sword of Truth. Wielding it does not reveal what we think – but who we truly are.”

~ Maria Lehtman

Do you feel that news headlines today are filled with fear? “Fear returns to Wall Street…” (CNBC), “Robots will destroy our jobs…” (The Guardian), “Cybercrime: an unprecedented threat to society?” (Information Age)…

Is fear contagious? If so, how do we lead people in a world that seems to be spinning out of our control? There is a way, although it takes more effort than doing what you did before.

What can fear do for you?

When we feel dread, alarm or panic – we suffer physiological consequences in our bodies. We experience a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus ending with a release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing, energized muscles, etc.

In other words, fear acts as a trigger to a fight-or-flight response. Fear is a behavioral pattern that tells us how to cope with adverse situations. It is necessary, yet, most of our modern-day threats are psychological rather than physical. Just reading the headlines raises a level of alarm in your body. If that happens even to the most seasoned leader, imagine what it does to people less prepared and schooled in managing stress. Pay attention to what triggers your emotions.

Do you recognize a fear of failure, fear of being left out, fear of not knowing, fear of the unknown, fear of losing autonomy? Facing your fears and understanding the source will help to anticipate and cope with them and address the adversity affecting your organization.

Why is fear the first obstacle you need to combat in intuitive leadership?

Fear effectively blocks all higher intelligence paths. Our ability to use perception ties directly to the amount of panic we feel. In stressful situations, it is surprisingly easy to ignore emotional intelligence, the silent information, our senses and guidance from others. We might even read accurate data, and be unable to interpret it correctly.

We become trapped in the invisible web of panic without ever realizing it was there.

Intuition, on the other hand, is a tool to listen to your senses:

– How do I feel?

– When I see/hear [this] why is my pulse getting agitated, breathing shallower?

– Can I understand what I’m feeling and why?

When you confront your fears, you begin to see that your leadership talent is much more than what technology, rank, financial situation or even the number of staff defines. If you lose the 1’000 people reporting to you, does that make you a lesser leader? No, it does not. Leadership is about the ‘how,’ not the ‘what.’ If you accept change, you will reflect that in your ecosystem.

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future – Fear is a Choice.”

~ Screenplay ‘After Earth’

Change is a constant factor in today’s business world. We have an endless amount of information available for improving our business, and yet, we may miss out on the most important part if we disregard our emotional intelligence and the use of intuition.

While you are unlikely to waltz into a boardroom calling off a major organizational change because of a gut feeling you had waking up – you might be able to pinpoint what exactly creates the uncomfortable feeling.

Intuition can provide great insight into data, trends, opportunities and avenues of choices in the future. Building up confidence is a delicate task especially in times of escalating change, waves of fake news and panic-ridden headlines.

Leading through digital transformation never gets any easier, but you become more accustomed to the fact that adversity lifts its head every morning. Intuition and consciousness are tools to manage it.

How to read signs of intuition? Intuitive insight will always let you stand on a neutral ground. It will provide information without strong emotional impact although it does manifest through senses. Intuition increases presence, observation, a feeling of detachment and compassion without judgement.

Fear on the other hand comes with a range of emotions and a feeling of separation. It hinders vision of a positive or neutral outcome and narrows the perspective. Fear is a subjective, inside-out view.

Leading Without Fear

There are many ways to lead people, but a few of them are extremely counter-productive. The first one is trying to do steer ahead alone. The second to deploy a transformation using fear as a motivator. Yet, even in today’s experienced business culture these approaches are applied frequently.

Why? Because it is human nature to reflect the very feelings we have inside us. Every time we act out in stress, we automatically spread fear.

Some years ago I was in the middle of a major IT transformation program. We had been working uphill every single day for six months to catch up on the ambitious timeline. I started to feel extremely stressed out. I thought it was due to the program until my mentor asked me: “What are you so afraid of?”

The question woke me up! I was frustrated, but more so, I felt a fear of failure looming over me. It was not because of the program as such. My confidence was shaken by the fact that I had people in my network questioning whether we were ‘doing it right.’

We implemented a change in the steering communication structure and the program team to instill more confidence in our stakeholders. I still had the pressure but without a major fear factor. Adding transparency and choosing the right people at the right time is critical to success.

Digital Age is About Stepping into the Unknown

Learning to lead by intuition is always a step into the unknown. You need to hunger for knowledge and then let go of your fear of the unknown. Digital Leadership relies on innovation, curiosity, motivation and the willingness to integrate people and technology.

You decide how your future pans out – not by defining ‘what’ it is, but ‘how.’

The most concrete way of doing that is to find a path that creates a feeling of passion in you. A new direction may not bring immediate results, but it creates a path to another future. People will always identify with a passionate leader.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

~ Steve Jobs


  1. CNBC: Fear Returns to Wall Street
  2. The Guardian: Robots will destroy our jobs – we’re not ready for it
  3. Information Age: Cyber crime: an unprecedented threat to society?
  4. Mental Health Foundation: Fear
  5. Psychology Today: The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share
  6. Wikipedia: Movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan: After Eearth
  7. Judith Orloff: How to Tell the Difference Between Fear and Intuition *)
  8. Stanford News: Commencement by Steve Jobs ‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says

*) More Reading: Dr. Judith Orloff, New York Times Bestseller, “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)


Maria Lehtman
Maria Lehtman
MARIA has over 20 years of Sales, Marketing, and Professional Services experience from the international telecommunications and travel industry. Her achievements include successful global Transition, Transformation, and Competency programs in management roles in the the global telecommunication field. She is currently working in International Sales & Marketing department with transversal employee and executive social media engagement development programs. Maria is passionate about digital empowerment and the opportunities it can provide for people around the world. She is a dedicated photographer and digital artist engaged in several creative projects at any given time. She is a compassionate leader, and her mission is to support people in self-transformation and in embracing new skills. Her trademark is her capability to share a smile even during the most challenging circumstances and keep a 'mindfulness'-attitude. Maria’s posts and thoughts represent her own view of the world. See Maria's current publication on Maria is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change and Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. While rereading this stellar article, I thought of the Spider-man. He uses his spider sense to move towards the danger rather than away from it. I use my fear the same way, move towards what I’m terrified of to overcome it. Anytime I procrastinated, the bad stuff I was worried about tended to happen.

    • Thank you, Chris :) In every hero there is a person with fear and willingness to overcome it. Spider-man is a good example, not the likeliest hero, but one who grew to his task. Honing his skills. Super-powers are only as good as the character using them. Sometimes, we just need a bit of courage. ;)

  2. Fear can distract us and yes does shut down our rational thought.

    From the boardroom, if we are fearful, our behavior will distract the other executives. That will not only translate to losing credibility, your fear can actually spread and alter the environment and mood in the room. And this can be imprinted on those you meet with. And from them it can create a permanent environment for yourself where you will become even more fearful and be unable, disabled, to face your own fears.

    And if we look at fear it is now being politically weaponized. If people are killed by a monster, do we blame the monster? No. Do we blame the ideology that the monster followed to the letter? No. We don’t blame any of those things. We blame those that were killed. And we don’t stop there we blame anyone and everyone that doesn’t follow a certain narrative. We call these people questioning the narrative, these very concerned people, we call them terrible things, labeling them as the monsters.

    Our words have power. And we they are blended with fear, there isn’t much time left when those being “falsely” labeled as monsters start acting like monsters.

    • Thank you, Chris! You are quite right. Fear is contagious. Looking at how it impacts the work environment is like watching a virus working its way through the system. It is also difficult to neutralize once it gets going. One of my mentors used to say that you need to focus on your task, not try to fix the entire organization. I’ve always applied that learning through priority setting in teams. Fears multiply the further you go from your core priorities, into the area that is less in your control. The more you worry about things outside your control, the less efficient you become in leading your life and priorities. “You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.” – Sammy Davis Jr.

      • The only way to stop the virus is to make a public display of “falling own your own sword” to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others. Public displays of such drama make a lasting impact on people. Perhaps going into a sabre rattling discussion where you just can’t win?

        When things are going bad, I tell everyone, “Look at me. I used to be a power lifter. That’s why I’m the shape that I am. Let me do the heavy lifting for this.”

        People need to fixate on something else, someone else so they won’t fixate on their fear.

  3. The quote says it best. Fear is a choice. Life is like a long hallway. The hallway has many doors. Those that find out what is behind the doors are the ones with the courage to open them and walk through. Be fearless, be bold. Step into the void and trust that you will land on solid ground.

    • Thank you, Larry. You are absolutely correct. Someone once told me that if you need to walk away from fear, you are not ready to confront it. Since then I’ve always tried to look for ways to ‘stay in the moment’ and understand what is causing it. My assumptions, memories, related or unrelated events or emotions. Every new cycle becomes easier than before and you create a new memory, one with facing your fear and learning from it.