Fear has a bad reputation. Nobody likes to admit that they are scared. Regardless of whether we look at pop culture, politics or business: Fear is frowned upon. Courage and willingness to take risks are revered and rewarded, the “clear edge”, the jump of the start-up team into the deep end, the superhero who fights against the overpowering evil. The saying “The guard dies, it never surrenders” by the Italian writer Giovannino Guareschi, which he puts in the mouth of his well-known title character Don Camillo, is a striking example of the importance that courage and willingness to sacrifice enjoy in our everyday narratives.
Nobody likes to be scared – neither do I. But we should distinguish between constructive and destructive fear. Destructive fear spreads wildly, actually reacts in panic. Your own horizon is shortened to the next few moments, you can no longer think clearly, hurt yourself and others and make bad decisions for everyone involved. We should fall into this fear as little as possible in business, society and politics. Destructive fear makes us blind to the essentials, to our fellow human beings and to the opportunities that may be presented to us.
What is important is what you do with fear
In contrast, constructive fear is extremely helpful. In evolution, neither the daring pioneers nor the overly cautious panics have genetically prevailed. The pioneers who were the first to jump into strange caves were sometimes eaten. And the panics, who never dared to do anything new, literally couldn’t keep up with the herd in the end. Therefore, someone who claims never to be afraid is not extraordinarily brave, but a psychopath. Such people should be avoided, as they usually drag you into the abyss when the streak of luck suddenly comes to an end – whether in the prehistoric cave of the bear or during a crash on the stock exchange, when the company is visible to everyone (only not for the team at the top) was led to ruin by wrong decisions and improper daring.
In the current political and economic situation, many people are afraid. That’s okay. It is okay, and a sign of sanity, to be afraid at times: fear for your future, your health, your job, or a loved one. What is important is what you make of it. Those who let themselves be overwhelmed by their fear have already lost. Because fear is an important sensor for the situation in the present, but a bad advisor for the future. In order to deal with fear in a constructive and future-oriented manner, we need its opponent: trust.
Trust has to be earned
Trust is easy to say, but can be difficult to build. It is not for nothing that it is said: Trust comes on foot, but flees on horseback. It takes a long time to establish trust, but the tower of trust is usually broken in a very short time. And building trust in particular is a German weakness. We overestimate the value of rules and underestimate the value of trusting relationships. At the moment, politics, media and business are investing far too little time and work to build trust in the basic political, communicative and economic mechanisms of our country. But we ourselves do not concentrate enough in our companies on really getting to know one another, building relationships and thus increasing mutual trust.
But where no trust is sown, fear grows as a weed. We should therefore not only pursue social and ecological sustainability as economic and political goals, but rather the model of a society of trust. A society in which too few people trust each other is falling apart. Then we are back in prehistoric times and separate into the pioneers and the panics, who diverge in different directions. In this sense, the much-lamented loss of the political center is of course also a loss of confidence and the strengthening of a deep, ultimately destructive fear for their own future.
If I could wish for a workshop for companies and parties, it should be a trust workshop, an anti-fear workshop. Only those who really know each other can rely on each other. And only when we actually unite behind a strong common goal can real, sustainable entrepreneurial or political success arise. The following applies to both spheres: Those who bet on the fear card may pick up the panic at short notice. In the long term, he destroys the system he wants to win.
Markus Väth is considered to be one of the leading figures in the New Work movement in Germany. He is the founder and managing director of humanfy GmbH, which specializes in New Work, and the author of the New Work Charter, which advocates a clear, humanistic and social version of New Work. He has authored several books on new work and management and is a lecturer for new work and organizational development at the Technical University of Nuremberg. With his approach of organizational coaching, he and his team accompany companies in their transformation towards real New Work and a new world of work.