A Does of Leadership Anxiety

Imagine what would happen if you were locked in your office without your phone or email. You are not able to do anything for the day, other than sit in your office and relax. How would this make you feel? Will you utilize that time to relax, or does your mind race with thoughts of everything that could go wrong?

If the idea of relaxing makes you stressed, nervous or even feel guilty, it’s okay. You are not the only one. In fact, 40 percent of Americans don’t use their vacations days, due to fears of work piling up, letting down the team, or simply proving themselves worthy to the business. Especially as leaders, there is this inherent idea that what we do defines us. If we take time off, it sometimes feel like we’re not important and that our company doesn’t need us. And if we’re not needed, what purpose do we serve?

Because of this, many leaders get addicted to tasks and getting things done. Regardless of how hectic things are or how much we complain about working too much, we are driven to get our anxiety fix.

Yes. I said “anxiety fix.”

The drama of making thing happen is highly addictive, especially when the results reinforces our identity—whether this be through increased self-esteem, compliments, pay, promotions, better relationships with your team, etc. The ebb and flow of interactions give us a purpose and a direction for our lives. Being in the mix and being able to react to what is happening creates excitement and an adrenaline rush. However, when we have that rush constantly, it becomes our method of interaction for numerous needs. Just like any other drugs, the addiction to chaos can fulfill emotional, organizational and physical needs. But this also clouds people’s minds, and key components can be missed due to this.

In the short term, everyone – including the organization – benefits from the anxiety because it makes things happen. This makes people feel productive, that they have a purpose, and that there is a need for them or the business. In the long run, however, everyone loses because the standard operating procedures for the individuals and organization keeps the business reactive. Thus, the business becomes dependent on that reactiveness and getting ahead of growth becomes difficult.

It is difficult to break an addiction – especially when you’re tempted by it on a daily basis – but “freedom” is the ultimate reward. Freedom doesn’t just apply to an individual, but for the business as well. Giving up the rush of anxiety for freedom allows the organization to grow to a whole new level.

As mentioned, reactiveness doesn’t allow you to get ahead of growth, but rather hope for the best outcome. Without an anxiety-driven environment, business can promote growth and create strong structure to support this. On the individual level, this creates an opportunity for people to relieve the pressures placed on them by taking on new identities that can better energize them. These new identities include teaching, modeling, coaching and consulting so that others can make decisions when they’re not around. It creates more a team feel, thus easing stress – creating a more energizing environment.