The Leader and Worry

The Pathway to Fear

311 iran ship

Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind,
and has given up worrying once and for all.
Ovid (43 BC – 18 AD)
Roman poet

311 iran shipDuring the WWII Burma Campaign, Col. Charles N. Hunter was the true commander of Galahad – the code name for the U.S. Army 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders. Colonel Charles N. Hunter had been with Galahad from the beginning, first as its ranking officer, later as its second ranking officer after the addition of General Merrill. Then, when General Merrill suffered a heart attack, it was left to Colonel Hunter to command it during its greatest trials; because of this, Colonel Hunter was the individual most responsible for Galahad’s record of achievement.

In the ominous atmosphere at Hsamsingyang, one of Colonel Hunter’s officers asked, “Aren’t you worried for fear we’ll be trapped by the Japs coming up on the east? Don’t you ever get scared?” General Hunter, who set down the principle that an officer should keep his fears in his foxhole, silently contemplated the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion S-2, then replied, “Wait ’til you’ve had twins.”


Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.
George Washington

United States President

Worry is a destructive force, one that every leader must resist. When a leader indulges in worry, problems feed on themselves. We need a definition for worry so that we all agree on what it means. Worry is to give way to anxiety, unease, or fear; to dwell on difficulties or troubles. Worry is anxiety or uncertainty concerning actual, potential, or even imagined problems. Worry sees both real and nonexistent problems, and sees them as much larger than they are. Worry offers nothing positive, regardless of any situation. Worry is worse than useless.

Except for those fearless soldiers (none of whom I would want at my side in combat; fearlessness is a dangerous psychosis), all of us have experienced worry and anxiety. Most of us, however, aren’t aware of just how destructive worry really is.

Here are some very real and serious consequences of worry:

  • it creates problems, and destroys solutions
  • it can turn the most courageous man into a coward
  • it is a very dangerous mental state that feeds on itself
  • it is mental torture every bit as bad as physical torture, and it is always getting worse
  • it is easy to worry; it becomes a destructive habit that is very difficult to break
  • it causes self-hate, which also becomes a destructive habit that is very difficult to break
  • it results in unhappiness, which leads to feelings of worthlessness and destructive behavior, both to oneself and to others
  • it hides all that is good in life, and corrupts what it cannot hide
  • it creates enormous frustration
  • it drives away all who would help
  • worry results in total inaction, which always ends in disaster

What worries you controls you.


For a leader consistently to be without worry, he must be highly motivated, as motivation counteracts worry. Worry causes inaction, whereas motivation causes action. Action solves problems before they become worrisome.


There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person only sees problems, and a concerned person solves problems.


Concern should drive us into action and not into a depression.
No man is free who cannot control himself.

Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c. 495 BC)

Greek mathematician and philosopher


A leader must know the differences between worry and concern if he is to realize when concern begins to become worry. Some crucial indicators that this change may be taking place are:

  • worry distracts; concern is attentive
  • worry prevents planning; concern enables planning
  • worry prevents clarity; concern enables clarity
  • worry gives up; concern keeps trying
  • worry overwhelms; concern takes it step by step
  • worry turns inward; concern turns outwards

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of life is learning mental self-control – control over what we think, and how we think. Self-control is necessary regardless of the task. We are what we have done, and what we think. If we think wrong, disaster invariably follows. Self-control banishes worry.


The most important difference between worry and concern is summed up in one concept – fear. Worry causes fear; concern creates courage.


When we have nothing to worry about we are not doing much, and not doing much may supply us with plenty of future worries.

Chinese proverb

A leader must never be idle. It causes loss of discipline, as well as trouble. Most important, it creates fear, which can become completely debilitating. A leader will use knowledge, wisdom, boldness, discipline, principles, and motivation to overcome fear.

A leader has the proper attitude. In a so-called “natural leader” this attitude is inborn; but it can be consciously developed. Whether innate or acquired, the result is the same. He must always be developing solutions, because problems are always getting in the way. A leader must never attempt to solve all problems at once; instead, he must solve tomorrow what he cannot solve today.

Many simple things can help fight off worry. Always be grateful whenever it’s warranted – if you begin to worry, remember that there a many who would jump at the chance to help you. Worry makes every situation worse. Let your thoughts control your emotions instead of letting you emotions control your thoughts. Help people who need it – not only is it kind and thoughtful, it’s eye-opening, as well, because you’ll see you don’t have as much to worry about as you thought. You’re also doing something very positive, and that creates courage.

The next time worry begins, examine your situation rationally, not emotionally. You will see that either your situation isn’t as bad as worry said it was; or, if it is actually that bad, you’re a step ahead because you’ve already begun formulating a solution.

Without being explicit on the subject, one of the best commentaries on the relationships among concern, worry, and fear is in the following blank verse sestet:

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar: Act 2, Scene II

Worry doesn’t help tomorrow’s troubles, but it does ruin today’s happiness.







Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.


When I look back on all the worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.

Winston Churchill (1874 AD-1965 AD)
British politician



Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all?
Dale Carnegie (1888 AD-1955 AD)
American writer



Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.

Plato (427 BC-347 BC)
Greek philosopher



When we have nothing to worry about we are not doing much, and not doing much may supply us with plenty of future worries.

Chinese proverb



Do not worry; eat three square meals a day; say your prayers; be courteous to your creditors; keep your digestion good; exercise; go slow and easy. Maybe there are other things your special case requires to make you happy, but my friend, these I reckon will give you a good lift.

Abraham Lincoln (1809 AD-1865 AD)
United States President



Early in my business career I learned the folly of worrying about anything. I have always worked as hard as I could, but when a thing went wrong and could not be righted, I dismissed it from my mind.

Julius Rosenwald



Fear nothing but what thy industry may prevent; be confident of nothing but what fortune cannot defeat; it is no less folly to fear what is impossible to be avoided than to be secure when there is a possibility to be deprived.

Francis Quarles

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