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Fear: the other four-letter F word

Except this one isn’t as much fun to talk about.

First, let me introduce myself. I’m Jae, a 23 year old copywriter living in Boulder, CO with a heart that’s still beating in Richmond, VA. I’m also a former ugly duckling.

As any other ugly duckling can attest to, there’s a cloud of self-doubt that follows you around despite all the bright and shiny things you’ve accomplished as a more-than-likely above average adult.

For example, I went from a broken English-speaking pudgy tomboy to a college educated, corporate-paid copywriter who is a solid “8” in a mid-sized city (words from a random stranger in a bar, so anon haters can prematurely hop off my shit). I also have an equally accomplished girlfriend who constantly reassures me how my memory is literally the best of any she’s encountered and that I’m brilliant with words (again, somebody else’s words, not mine).

Despite all this, I still question whether I’m a “real” writer. Even though I get paid to do this! That’s enough proof for most of the population, right?

Still, each day I sit in front of my company-funded Apple product smorgasbord, with that stupid blinking line giving me the stank eye, and my palms will metaphorically start to sweat. The fear of critique, of rejection, of failure, would paralyze me.

Well, this girl is learning how to move and taking her first big step.

No matter if it’s sneakers, or branding, or advertising, or social media, or feminism, or pop culture, or fashion, or typography, or life, or the obscure rituals of the people of Papua New Guinea... I want to become a better writer. And the only way to do that is to, well, write!

So to start it off, here are some animal-themed tips for humans looking to become leaders.

The backstory to this is that I once had a boss who had a heart of gold but honestly wasn’t the best manager. It was a hard situation to be in because as a human, I really wanted to like him but as an employee, I wanted him to step up as a leader.

I’m not going to lie but leadership wasn’t something natural to me but by the time I came to work at his store I’d been in retail for approximately seven years, in management for three years (funny enough, my first year as an assistant manager I hired this guy as a sales associate), and successfully made it through the semi-real world clusterfuck that is American Higher Education.

So, I knew a thing or two about appealing to people, helping others play nicely, and working with what I’ve got (no matter how little). Despite my initial fears and anxieties about overseeing others, I grew into leadership because that was what needed to be done.

When I was leaving that job to come to my current position, he asked me to evaluate him. Without trying to I came up with tips that all had animals in them. And now you get to read these sweet morsels of jungle-themed wisdom.

1) Remember like an elephant.

If somebody mentions something to you, whether it’s as small as a day off or as major as a whole organizational change, make sure to write it down somewhere or make note of it on your phone.

There’s just no excuse. With old school mementos like Post-It to new age apps like Evernote, you can no longer claim a slip of the mind. Now it’s just not having it together.

It’s frustrating to mention something weeks or days ahead of time out of common courtesy, only to get blamed (or feel as if you’re getting blamed) when it comes to that day and the person you’ve mentioned said thing to has forgotten about the entire ordeal or only remember pieces of it.

A great leader always needs to know what’s going on and should know more than their team members (or be able to admit when they don’t know). Look at Master Splinter. Man always had his stuff together.

2) Charge at the rhino.

When a difficult or conflicting situation arises, a great leader runs at it full speed.

No waiting around. No letting the the fear of the rhino become greater than the actual thing. Also, absolutely no letting those under you do the difficult work for you.

If somebody under you is to respect you, they’ve got know that you can make the hard decisions, do the “dirty” deeds, and back them up without hesitation.

3) Trust in your pack.

A leader is only as good as the pack behind them.

When you have team members that perform 9/10 times, they should be getting rewarded and positively reinforced with compliments, bonuses, and who knows, maybe a pony. They should not get penalized for the 1/10 times they may not be up to par. We are not robots (as far as we know; I’m looking at you, Matrix).

This creates an environment where it feels like any mistake puts them back at square one. It dissolves into a downward spiral of not striving for more because you’re scared you’ll get penalized, then getting penalized for not exceeding expectations, then becoming even more fearful of stepping beyond your boundaries.

You are not perfect. Neither is your team. Nobody is.

But a leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of the pack, embraces them, and uses them to help the pack grow.

This is how we have gotten as far as we have as a species. That and survival of the fittest.