Leading Through Anxiety
The founder and Anxiety CEO of a startup is seated in the office space she just recently rented for her quickly expanding business. Even though it is rush hour, the 600 vacant desks outside her office door and the streets outside are both calm. Her leadership group just yesterday made the difficult but essential choice to send everyone home to work for the foreseeable future. She has to host a videoconference in 30 minutes to reassure her staff. She is, however, pessimistic, worried, and just terrified.
During the past six months, variations of this image have been occurring all across the world as Covid-19 cases increase and economies collapse. The fragility of all they have built has become apparent to the founders, executives, managers, and staff members almost immediately. My husband confided in me one evening in March, saying, “I’m so afraid, but I can’t let all the people who depend on me see that.” To persuade his team and colleagues that they would survive the crisis, he spent hours in Zoom conversations. He should have been the picture of serenity, but instead, he was scared.
How can you lead with confidence and power when you’re feeling uneasy? When your thoughts and heart are racing, how can you inspire and motivate others? Where does the fear go if you try to be a strong leader by hiding it?
Of sure, anxiety serves a purpose. It safeguards us against damage. We are no longer subject to tigers and mastodons, but rather to harm to our self-esteem, rejection by our group, or the prospect of failing in a competitive conflict, according to psychologist Rollo May’s 1977 essay. Although the emotion of anxiety has evolved, its shape has not. In other words, even though no predators are chasing after people today, we are still being pursued by concerns about the well-being of our loved ones.
Stress is a reaction to a threat in a circumstance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety response to stress. Fear of the future is the root of anxiety. Sometimes that dread is justified, other times it is not. And other instances, it pertains to events that will take place in three minutes or thirty years (such as stepping onto a platform to deliver a presentation) (having enough money to retire).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America claims that stress is a reaction to a situational threat. Stress causes anxiety as a response. Anxiety is the worry of potential future events. Sometimes a person’s fear is justified, other times not. And other times, it’s about something that will take place in three minutes (like getting up on stage to give a presentation) or in thirty years (having enough money to retire).
We were built for this moment, which is fantastic news for those of us who have long controlled our anxieties. According to research, anxious persons interpret threats differently and use the brain’s action-related regions. Whenever there is a threat, we act immediately. We might also feel more at ease in difficult situations. Anxiety, when used properly, can inspire us to increase the resourcefulness, productivity, and creativity of our teams. It can dismantle barriers and forge fresh connections.
Hence, worrying isn’t pointless. The fear that keeps us awake at night during a financial crisis might be able to help us come up with a plan to keep our companies operating. But if left unchecked, anxiety causes us to become distracted, drains our energy, and influences our decision-making. Since anxiety is a potent foe, we must make it our ally.
You may still be a successful leader, regardless of whether you have an anxiety illness that has been diagnosed or this is your first experience with this powerful feeling. Yet, I’ll be honest: If you don’t confront your worry at some point, it will bring you down. Although difficult, doing this will improve both your life and your capacity to lead others.
Let’s start today, in this very stressful time. Learning to recognize your anxiety in its various forms and manifestations is the first step. The second level involves taking action to control it daily and at trying times. Making wise choices and guiding people during stressful situations are required in the third level. The fourth stage entails creating a support system to assist you with long-term anxiety management.