On Fear and Leadership

How leaders use failure as a learning tool

Vincent Vicari, MPA
3 min readAug 28, 2022


Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Fear is contagious. Fear is probably one of the most contagious diseases in the world. Fear is a virus that requires little effort to jump from human to human.

Fear is also a very useful tool for those seeking influence and power. Fear is also what holds us back as individuals.

History is riddled with examples of how others used the weapon of fear to control not just individuals, but whole societies. Through religious, technological, economic, and ideological “fear,” those seeking power will find a way.

For many of us, our natural instinct is to fear the unknown. We’re afraid of challenges. We’re afraid of failure. What we’re afraid of holds most of us back. Those that overcome fear thrive, for the most part.

Overcoming Fear

Today, many comparisons are made to the fall of Rome. The collapse of such an empire naturally makes people wonder. Today, the fall of Rome is cited as a potential outcome for modern civilization.

I also suspect Romans at the time thought it was the end of the world. It was the end of their world, as they knew it. But humanity carried on. Civilization didn’t end.

Disclaimer: Although Europe fell in dark times, it’s a big world people.

And the individuals who realized life was changing, not ending, adapted and moved forward.

When bombs fell on England during World War 2, Churchill didn’t cave. He didn’t simply give in and neither did the people of London. They carried on. They acknowledged the fear.

But they challenged it.

That is the lesson history teaches us. Fear is a natural barrier we can overcome.

The Fear of Failure

We despise failure. Admit it. We all do. Pick something, we can’t stand failing at it. Even if it’s our first time, we get that feeling in our belly.

That knot of frustration and disappointment. It takes a while for our self-awareness to kick in.

Even our fictional characters fear losing. I quote Captain James T. Kirk, from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan when he tells Saavik…



Vincent Vicari, MPA

Artist, illustrator, and writer on Personal Development, Leadership, and Creativity. See more at https://vincentvicariart.com