Leader Trends: Do We Encourage Fear?

[May 13, 2020]  Watching the news on television and reading local newspapers, I have become saturated with health professionals, politicians, and pundits that are encouraging fear.  It matters not where I go for information or about what is happening anywhere in the world; there is a steady drumbeat of dire predictions that the world is about to come crashing down on us.Note

This blaring of doom and gloom is not new.  Thomas Jefferson, in 1774 often complained about local, small-town leaders who could whip up the population into a frenzy over the smallest things.  They are “peddling fear” and he thought they should know better and be more honest and straightforward about their thoughts on government.

We often hear about existential threats.  Climate change will eventually drown us all if something is not done immediately.  China will rule the world with its dominating economic system and military expansion.  Disease and pestilence will wipe out the human population unless action is not taken to solve some specific problem.  The steady stream of “news” about what will happen next appears to be unending.

What is most disconcerting to me is that senior leaders in all realms of our society and at all levels are participating.  Whether it is a politician from Washington D.C. or a councilperson from my township, I hear that I’m needed to instantly engage myself to end a problem I don’t understand.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand, just rally around the cause, and all will be good.  I’m being misled, and I know it.

This effort is a regrettable leader trend that will have unpredictable future outcomes.  Distrust of leaders has been building in the West for many decades now.  Some say our leaders have betrayed our trust and are acting selfishly and “what’s in it for me” attitude that purveys all segments of our communities.  Poor leader skills have added to the problem.

There is a crucial lesson for leaders.  Be responsible.  Tell the truth.  Be humble.  Those leaders who spread fear (as well as hate and panic) lack the most essential leadership principle.  Leaders must be principled, transparent, loyal, open, and trustworthy if they are to be believed.  Those same leaders have a simple choice.  Be part of the problem or be the solution.


Note: This article is part of a long-running series on leader trends.  I recommend the reader use the search feature to hunt them down on my website.  On another note, I often write about “fear” and its impact on people (see a few at these links here, here, and here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

19 thoughts on “Leader Trends: Do We Encourage Fear?

  1. Gil Johnson

    One of the greatest quotes about fear:
    “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” by Plato

  2. Roger Yellowmule

    I know this coronavirus pandemic is scaring the sh$$ out of me.

  3. Tony Custer

    I agree with your proposition, Gen. Satterfield. I forwarded your article to a psychologist friend of mine for comment. Let’s see what he has to say. On the other hand, I found your article ‘frightening’ to my senses …. ha ha ha

    1. lydia

      Thanks Tony, you made my day with your comment. I also agree with the article. This is why I keep coming back to Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog and also this forum. I can find some level of intellectual discussion that is not crazy and full of those who want to put down others. I think that Gen. Satterfield must be monitoring the comments.

    2. Joe Omerrod

      Yeah, I think most of us would agree. Hope that you’ve been well, Tony. Haven’t heard from you in a while.

  4. Kenny Foster

    Fear. Remember those scary movies when we grew up and now they are just boring. Well, it doesn’t mean we are immune from fear, far from it. We can adapt and our minds have adapted but the primitive self is still there and ready for fight or flight.

  5. Army Vet

    During my recent ‘vacation’ in an unnamed South American country, I found the military commanders taking time out to ensure their soldiers we not fearful of the enemy but also of the jungles. Much hides in the jungles that can kill you before you even know you’re going to die. The enemy, mostly socialist guerrillas, are not very good soldiers but there are plenty of them. We don’t fear them now but there are many superstitions to overcome.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Hi Army Vet, once again it is a pleasure to hear from you. I hope you are back in the States and safe. We all would like to read another article by you. Thanks. We are all big fans.

    2. Nick Lighthouse

      Good comment. I too am a big fan, so please write for us about your adventures and ‘vacation’ down south.

  6. Walter H.

    “Fear” can be a motivator. Nothing like having your life threatened to see the light and get up off your ass.

  7. Max Foster

    Fear is a survival tactic that is built into our species. We all have it or, of course, we will die because we cannot protect ourselves from a danger we do not fear. But in our modern society with less direct threats to our living, other fears develop (phobias for example). Fear is inborn. So when leaders encourage fear, they are simply extending the fear we all have. Now, that is a tool of power that is, itself, powerful.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      All animals experience fear. At least that is what I was taught in HS biology class. Hmmmm. I do think that fear is an interesting topic for discussion and Gen. Satterfield has a number of articles dealing with this emotion. Remember, don’t let your emotions take over.

  8. Army Captain

    Good article, Gen. Satterfield. This is one obstacle I have to fight daily with my soldiers.

    1. JT Patterson

      An interesting comment from Army Capt. Thank you. I also will add that leaders in all walks of life are spending many hours battling fears in the workplace and not just in the military. We have people who are simply afraid to use an elevator or have dirt on their desk. I’m not talking about phobias but just plain old fear that interferes with their work (just a little) and makes efficiency hard to acheive.

  9. Eva Easterbrook

    For anyone who doubts Gen. Satterfield in his argument, just watch tv for a few hours and see the unending attempts to instill fear. Just name the reason (pandemic, war, natural disasters, rising oceans, and on and on and on.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.