A Leader’s Guide to Managing Anxiety

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Anxiety is something many of us don’t believe we have ever experienced. We often think anxiety means being nervous or scared, when in fact it can show up in so many ways! Believe it or not, anxiety can sneak into our experiences as a leader more often than we realize. It’s not uncommon for the weight of responsibility to bring forth a whirlwind of emotions. As someone who has answered numerous questions and interacted with individuals facing similar challenges, I understand the impact of anxiety in leadership positions. So, let’s unpack together how anxiety manifests in leadership roles and discover the steps to overcome it.

In my professional career, I have helped my clients both identify and conquer anxiety in all its shapes and forms. The number one presentation of anxiety I have seen that is so often not acknowledged is self-doubt. The weight of making critical decisions and guiding a team can really weigh on many great leaders. However, anxiety is not the be-all and end-all. I believe any leader can learn how to get anxiety’s grips under control. Today, I want to share with you the insights I’ve gained to empower you to lead with confidence yourself!

Related: 3 Ways to Lead Effectively While Dealing with Anxiety

How anxiety manifests in leadership roles

Imposter syndrome:

Leaders often experience imposter syndrome, and they might not even realize it. Imposter syndrome is based on fear, and it essentially comes down to the individual not believing they are good enough for their role. This self-doubt can undermine your confidence and hinder your ability to make decisions. Remember, you are in your leadership role for a reason. Reflect on your achievements, skills and unique perspectives that brought you here. Go back to the real you and acknowledge that you have what it takes to lead.

Mentors are great resources to help guide your perspective on yourself toward a more fulfilling framework. Additionally, look out for clues on how you are exactly the right person for the role. Any wins, big or small, are evidence of this. Tip: Don’t overlook the small stuff! Often, this is what creates the larger picture of all your capabilities and skills.

Fear of failure:

Anxiety in leadership often stems from a fear of failure (also related to imposter syndrome). The pressure to meet expectations and deliver results can create a constant sense of unease. Instead of viewing failure as a reflection of your worth, reframe it as an opportunity for growth. Embrace a mindset that sees failure as a stepping stone toward success. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this experience? How can I improve?”

Again, failure can make us feel uneasy because it might seem unpredictable. Why did I fail? Was it me or an external reason? Reflect on where you feel you didn’t perform, and locate how you can avoid this next time. Certainty and direction are easy ways to start mitigating those anxious feelings.

Overwhelm and decision paralysis:

Leadership positions come with a multitude of responsibilities and decisions. Anxiety can leave you feeling overwhelmed, leading to decision paralysis. Interestingly, procrastination can start to creep up when we enter this zone. Very related to fear of failure, we avoid taking action because we fear the negative feelings that failure might bring. So, how can we go about dealing with this? Break tasks into manageable steps and prioritize effectively. Seek input from your team and trusted advisors. Remember, you don’t have to shoulder the burden alone. Delegate when necessary, and trust in the collective wisdom of your team.

Effective communication challenges:

Anxiety can hinder effective communication in leadership roles, too. The fear of being judged or misunderstood can prevent you from expressing your thoughts clearly. This might make us engage in indirect communication, where we don’t really express our needs or how we really feel. Awareness is the key here. Often, we aren’t even aware that we are doubling down on what we say or not expressing ourselves clearly. Start small, and reach out with the help of a mentor as well. Sometimes a bit of practice is all that it takes to get us on the right path again.

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Work-life balance struggles:

As leaders, we often find it challenging to strike a balance between work and personal life. The constant demands and pressures can consume your thoughts, leading to burnout and heightened anxiety. Set boundaries, and prioritize self-care. Remember that taking care of yourself is essential to leading effectively. Delegate tasks, seek support when needed, and engage in activities that recharge your energy. Also, book it in! Schedule this time for you in your calendar. Make it a priority in your life. Taking these steps will mean you will return back to your role with more energy and vitality than before.

Related: 5 Tips for Dealing With Anxiety as a Business Owner Right Now

How to conquer anxiety in leadership

With all this in mind, here are some extra bonuses on how to conquer anxiety every day.

Embrace vulnerability:

Acknowledge and embrace your vulnerability as a leader. Understand that it is okay to ask for help and show vulnerability. By doing so, you create an environment where others feel safe to do the same. Vulnerability fosters trust, authenticity and collaboration!

Seek support:

Don’t hesitate to seek support from mentors, coaches or trusted colleagues who have navigated similar challenges. They can provide guidance, perspective and reassurance. Remember, you are not alone in your journey, and seeking support is a sign of strength (you will also inspire those around you to do the same).

Practice mindfulness:

Engage in mindfulness practices to cultivate self-awareness and manage anxiety. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and visualization can help you stay present, manage stress and maintain a clear focus. Take it easy, too! Studies have shown even just three minutes of mindfulness practice can help your brain ground itself and enter the present moment.

Celebrate successes:

Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Take time to reflect on your achievements and milestones. Celebrating success boosts your confidence, reaffirms your capabilities and motivates you to tackle future challenges with a positive mindset. Also, celebrate these with your team. This truly gets everyone’s energy going!

Continuous learning and growth:

Embrace a mindset of continuous learning and growth. Seek opportunities to expand your knowledge, skills and leadership abilities. Engage in professional development, attend workshops or conferences, and connect with like-minded individuals. By investing in your growth, you build confidence and enhance your leadership capabilities. There is always more to learn, and with knowledge comes power in yourself and your abilities!

Related: How to Overcome Entrepreneurial Anxiety, Banish Stress, and Crush Your Goals

Anxiety can manifest in leadership roles, but it doesn’t have to define your journey. By understanding its challenges and implementing effective strategies, you can lead with confidence, authenticity and resilience. Embrace your unique abilities, seek support, practice mindfulness, celebrate successes, and commit to continuous learning. Remember, the path to overcoming anxiety begins with self-belief and a commitment to personal growth. Are you ready to embark on this transformative journey? Embrace the challenges, unlock your true leadership potential, and inspire greatness within yourself and your team. The future of your leadership begins now!

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Gravy Smith
Gravy Smith
Gravy Smith is a mechatronic engineer who pivoted her career towards content writing, online marketing, and entrepreneurship.