Podcast: Carey Lohrenz on How to Be a Fearless Leader

“I always knew right from the beginning, since I was a little girl, that I would be an aviator,” says Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the United States Navy. “Flying was in my blood.”

Growing up, Carey’s father was in the U.S. Air Force and her mother was a flight attendant. Aviation was ingrained in her family, so much so Carey and her brother would imagine themselves flying high in the skies accomplishing all sorts of daring and incredible feats.

Carey went on to make that dream a reality, but had no idea how challenging her career path would be, particularly as a woman. In this episode of The Leadercast Podcast, we talk with Carey—now a keynote speaker, executive leadership coach and author of Fearless Leadership—about the resilience and determination it took to establish her aviation career, and her tips on how to employ courage and fearlessness in your leadership.

Why Not Me?

Carey knows the first vital element of leadership is courage. At an early age, she needed to cultivate it in herself and stomp out voices saying she wouldn’t be able to chase her dreams.

“Courage is absolutely critical to anything that we’re going to want to do if we’re going to have these big dreams and big goals,” says Carey.

Born without fully formed hips, Carey was told by doctors that she would never be able to walk. She was in a plaster cast for the first few years of her childhood. She had constraints and limits right out of the gate, but didn’t let those limitations deter her from dreaming up big goals. She eventually was able to walk and, through her experiences, developed a “Why not me?” attitude in which she thought, “Someone is going to achieve these goals, why not me?”

What’s Fearlessness?

The word “fearlessness” doesn’t mean you won’t feel fear, explains Carey, but it does mean you move forward anyway. It’s not to be confused with reckless abandon or false bravado.  

Carey doesn’t trust people who say they’re never afraid; it’s not normal to never be afraid. She experienced plenty of fear in her career, but found a way to push beyond it.

"No matter your situation, the No. 1 way to ensure you're the best leader you can be is to build your ability to work through fear—and then do what needs to be done in spite of that fear,” says Carey.

Now as an executive coach, Carey instructs leaders to do one thing every single morning to grow their fearlessness: Grab a sticky note, write down three things to focus on for the day and take action on what matters most.

Action is key to conquering fear, she says. “Take action when you're uncertain.”

Why Does Fearlessness Matter for Women?

Women in the workplace don’t always put themselves out there to conquer fears or take risks. Carey explains that, on average, men raise their hand for a promotion when they feel as though they are about 35 percent ready for the next job, but women only do this when they feel 125-135 percent ready.

Based on this data, women have a tendency to play it safe, but Carey advises against this. “When we play it safe, we’re putting ourselves more at risk,” she says.

She advises women not to wait, but instead be fearless and go for goals that may seem lofty initially. “Don't wait for an invitation to make a difference."

Listen to this episode to learn more from Carey about how to overcome fear in your leadership. In it, you’ll also hear the leadership lessons Carey learned in the cockpit and discover how she advocated for herself even when the law was against her.

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This post is based on an episode of The Leadercast Podcast with Carey Lohrenz, author, speaker, executive leadership coach and the first female F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Leadercast Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

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