Halloween is a scary holiday even for an optimistic person like me. There’s no better time of the year than October to think about what scares us. Courage is one of the tenets of effective leaders. And all of us have fears that we need to overcome from time to time. When we acknowledge our fears, we get the choice to wallow in them like many people do; or show our courageous side and take action to transform the things that make us cringe.
The things that scare me range from unreasonable fears to concerns that are very real. I’m afraid my subway riding days may be behind me, due to fears of violence I hear about on the news. Most people must overcome such fears or else how will they get to work? They gather their courage and come up with a strategy to overcome that fear.
I’m frightened by the roar of authoritarianism, which seems to be biting at our heels, when too many of our so-called leaders continue to deny the 2020 election results, and also insist the January 6th assault on our Capitol was a friendly visit to Congress. And now those so-called patriots are campaigning to take away voting rights, women’s rights, civil rights and the rule of law. Today democracy’s greatest threat is from within America. I address this fear by gathering my courage to speak up, help get out the vote and support those candidates who believe In democracy’s pillars of freedom for all.
I am unnerved by ignorance about education. Teachers are leaving their positions in herds due to stress, unfair pay and a lack of good childcare for their own families. All this hurts children’s ability to succeed in school and life, and adds a further childcare burden to middle and lower income families.The increasingly excessive cost of higher education leaves students and teachers with a lifetime of debt. It is a horror movie in the making.
Lastly, here’s one more Halloween nightmare that makes my blood boil. The rampant campaign to take away women’s rights. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, at least 13 states have passed laws restricting abortions. This year, the World Economic Forum stated it will take 132 years to close the gender gap. Women’s rights are on the chopping block. Companies need to do more to bring equity to women. They need to identify high-potential women and support their growth and development with coaching and leadership training. We need all hands on deck to address the challenges we have today.
It is truly a witching hour for America. If you share some of my fears, here are some ways you can bring your courage forward. Start by speaking up and having calm conversations with people that don’t see the long reaching effects of a government that does not stand up for its people. Make sure that 8 days after Halloween you get every person who cares about human rights to the polls and votes for the candidates that support democracy and freedom.
Our country needs us NOW not after the damage is done. Take the magic wand out from your closet (you have one) and transform your fears into courage.. With truthful, caring leaders at the helm, we will all be less fearful next Halloween. What’s in your trick or treat bag this year? We’ve had enough tricks! Let’s give our country the treats we all need – truth, integrity, empathy and democracy.
--Leslie Grossman, founder, Her Circle Leadership; faculty director, Executive Women’s Leadership, GWU-Center for Excellence in Public Leadership; author, “LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections.”