A lot of people think that a positive and successful leader is someone who is entirely free of anxiety. That makes sense because it would seem that anxiety and success are the complete opposite of each other. But it’s not the reality at all. In fact, if you think that to be a winner that you have to eliminate all anxiety; you will be waiting a long time to try your hands as a leader.
Successful leaders are not people who never experience anxiety. They are people who feel fear but can manage it. They act despite anxiety.
So how can you, as a leader, defeat anxiety, knowing that it’s going to come back and haunt you every now and then? There are a couple of things you need to do.
Firstly, we need to believe that anxiety serves a purpose. It is not a useless emotion. Anxiety is closely linked to our human-survival impulse. It breathes to keep us out of trouble. It only becomes an issue when it stops us from acting when it keeps us stuck to our comfort zone.
Every time you feel anxiety, remind yourself that it is a spontaneous response. It is your emergency protective mechanism kicking in. But the beauty of this security system is that it comes with an over-ride button. It’s like a bright warning sound, but you can choose whether you listen to it or not. That’s all anxiety is—a warning sound. Assess the situation, and if it seems fine, you can really go ahead.
The second thing you can do to neutralize anxiety is to look at what causes it. Like with many negative emotions, anxiety originates from anxious thoughts.
If you are facing an job interview, and your thoughts are:
- “I’m not good at job interviews.”
- “There are plenty of better applicants than me going for the job.”
- “I have always failed at everything.”
With those thoughts, of course, you are going to stay anxious! But the reality is, if you properly analyze each of these thoughts, there are plenty of things wrong with those statements’ thinking.
For example, with the statement “I’m not good at job interviews”. Based on what? Are you consistently bad, or just bad at specific parts of the interview? Can you fix those areas?
With the statement “I have always failed at everything? That is a generalization.
And “There are plenty of better applicants than me going for the job.” How are they better? In what way? Are they better in all the possible ways? Does the job always go to the “other” candidate?
If you can charge and destroy all the wrong logic around those statements, you will automatically feel less anxious since most anxiety is linked to faulty thinking.
The next time you face an anxiety-provoking scenario, remember that anxiety is just a warning sign, or a stopping mechanism of the brain telling us that you are going out of your comfort zone. You don’t need to always listen to the warning sign. And when you examine and dispute the thoughts behind the anxiety, you will often recognize that there no depth propping up the anxiety.