Leading Difficult People: Fearful Fred – by John Maxwell


Someone once said, “90% of the art of living consists in getting along with people you cannot understand.” Haven’t you found that to be true? I know that if everyone were just like me, then relationships would sure be a lot simpler.

But people ARE different, in wonderfully complex ways. And there IS an art to living together. If you’re a leader, the differences are amplified, because you have to not only get along but also influence the other person. So it’s especially important for a leader to learn how to handle personalities and attitudes that are different from your own.

I’ve led a lot of people over the years, and not all of them were like me. Some were especially difficult to lead. And over the years, through trial and error, I’ve discovered ways to effectively lead most people.

For EVERY person you lead, it’s important to get to know them well. Understanding is the key to success in leading a difficult person. That’s because people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. For the next few weeks, I’m going to share some tips for dealing with the difficult people that you may lead.

Let’s talk about one type of difficult person today, so you can understand who he is and where he’s coming from. This will make you a more effective leader for him and others like him.

Fearful Fred

Have you met Fred? He’s a nice guy, certainly not trying to be difficult. He’s just a person living under the influence of his fears. And their influence is amazingly strong. What Fred is most afraid of is the unknown. He avoids anything new or different, so it’s hard to lead him where he’s never been before. And his fears paralyze his productivity.

To lead Fred, you need to understand him, be willing to listen, and give him tools to grow. People truly don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If Fred trusts you and believes that you have his best interests at heart, he can be very loyal and even courageous.

Understanding Fearful Fred:

Attitude: Low Enthusiasm
Motivated by: Support
Strength: Steady Worker
Weakness Fear of Risk

Listening to Fearful Fred:

Privately sit down and discuss Fred’s fears.

Identify his fears and the reasons why he has them.

Evaluate his desire to overcome his fears.

If his desire is high, develop a game plan.

Leading Fearful Fred:

Plan a project together. This gives him Strategy
Give guidelines to follow. This gives him Structure
Do a project that is easy. This gives him Safety
Do a project together. This gives him Security
Do a project that is winnable. This gives him Success

Helping Fearful Fred Grow:

Read Failing Forward together.

Do you lead a Fearful Fred? Or maybe YOU are a Fearful Fred. I’ve found from personal experience that by attempting to understand and meet him where he is, a leader can successfully influence Fred and help him to grow. And a motivated Fearful Fred can also lead himself through these exercises and find courage.


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