Anxiety in Leadership

By Njeri Muchunu

Life, by its very nature, evolves in patterns of Seasonality. We are given to experiencing life in peaks and troughs. Peaks speak to winning seasons of varied accomplishments. Release of life affirming endorphins which trigger feelings of positivity, euphoria → I can conquer the world, Bring it ON! Conversely, troughs are those seasons when life ebbs placidly or choppily into challenges, difficulties of unbeknownst proportions. One starts experiencing growing concern, likely this morphs into anxiety in varying forms. Certainly this is the case for elite Performers such as Athletes; those found in the Performing Arts; Scientific Pioneers determined to deter any number of earth’s scourges; and finally, Leaders. Any seasoned Leader will testify scaling a peak assuredly means having to climb down that peak in order to commence scaling the heights towards the next peak _ Character in Leadership with us, we shall be delighted to walk with you.

The Anxiety under review here is the earnest but tense desire or eagerness to please; to succeed; to surmount; basically to attain an expectation be it at the professional, domestic, public or other setting. More so to those in positions of Authority or Stewardship.

One of life’s great ironies, is the vast majority earnestly desire to scale the lofty heights of Stewardship; of Authority; of Leadership; of Power ~ whatsoever description rocks your boat! What then happens upon ascendancy; or better put, when the rubber meets the road? A disconcerting dawning that perhaps the gravitas associated with the position, you simply are not cut out for it! Why do I qualify it as ironic? Because you fought tooth and nail for it; sacrificed so much for it [be it going back to school to upweight with additional qualifications or accreditations, scant presence on the home-front, relationships tossed by the wayside, compromised principles] the list is endless. How do you face up to the increasingly deafening voice[s] inside your head that sow seeds of inadequacy; second-guessing self; questioning whether you are the real deal or a fraud; again another list that is ad nauseum.

Meanwhile, how does this anxiety show up on the outside? Erratic sleep patterns; spasmodic reactions to your phone alerts be it a call, emails or messages pinging through; discontinuous thought and eating patterns; your normally dependable equanimity deserts you at the most inopportune of moments ~ such as → chairing meetings with crucial stakeholders, check-in sessions with your reporting lines among other related examples ~ on rare occasions, a sense of panic may rear its head. At the core of this anxiety type is intermittent self-limiting beliefs which stand in complete variance to your notable repertoire of achievements. Which are the envy of many; understandably you are not alive to these sentiments as you are temporarily caught up with the voices of hesitancy within you.

How does one then manage Leadership vicissitudes such as these ~ anxiety in Leadership?

1. Find your voice as a Leader ~ at the core of this is your identity. Nothing shores up unfounded anxiety like holding up the ‘WHO AM I’ mirror. Is your identity as provided by your source of life? Or are you one of those overhauled Vauxhalls with a retrofitted ubiquitous Japanese engine model [does this still happen in this day and age?]. Note to self: go back to the warranty particulars as envisaged by my Source of Life! If I may illustrate what forms a mirror can take → what works for me is a slogan or mantra that serves to focus me ASAP towards WHO I AM. Mine is mind over matter/heart over mind. Do you have one? Is it current-dated or is this an opportune time to tune it up?

 

2. Go back to what made you a deserving Leader to that position ~ this speaks into your core Values that served as navigational lights to journey you into this ascendancy. Quietens the self-limiting voices does it not? Reaffirms belief and then some. If not, perhaps a call for you to revisit your Values, breathe a new lease of life. Remember too, well-founded Values have strong interdependencies with one’s identity.

 

3. Dial up Courage Pronto! ~ this courage wagon include cues that affirm you; pull up that mental archive → without much ado access recollections as to when you were at your best winning; rallying your diverse stakeholders towards collective defining achievements; identify with characteristics that define your strengths; do you have a direct line to your Source of Life? Leverage it pap!

 

4. Relax, it is never that serious! ~ One of those well-known truisms that we are guilty of inconsistently practicing. When well adopted, moments of I Am Tense abate. I keep my eye on the big picture, understanding that the journey to Leadership legacy has peaks and troughs. Our opportunity is to intentionally harness lessons of what informed the peaks ~ then aim to replicate; and what fed the troughs ~ determine if there are those to be avoided as the journey evolves.

If any segment of the foregoing has resonated with you, kindly feel free to get in touch with us, we shall be delighted to walk with you.

The author is a leadership curator. Contact Njeri Muchunu

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