Leadership Addiction to Anxiety

It seems as if we as leaders in our organizations are always hearing or talking about a need for balance in our lives. We work too much and our lives are chaotic. It seems that work never truly escapes our thoughts. And yet, as soon as we have a lull in the action, we begin driving to get our next anxiety fix.

Yes, I said ‘anxiety fix’. It’s an addiction. Leaders get a high from making things happen and filling their days with work. Tied to that is our need to be needed. Leaders have a hard time letting go of control and giving up or loosening the dependency others have on them. Of course people need you! But do they need you in the sense that you think they do?

You Make Things Happen

The drama of making things happen is highly addictive – the ebb and flow of interactions gives us a purpose and a direction for our lives. Being in the mix, reacting to what is happening, creates excitement and an adrenaline rush. When we as individuals have that rush continually, it becomes our method of interaction, which fulfills a number of needs. It can actually become physical addiction just like any drug. So it meets emotional needs, organizational needs, and physical needs. In the short run, everyone, including the organization, benefits because the anxiety makes so many things happen. In the long run, everyone loses and it becomes standard operating procedure for the individual and the organization to keep the business reactive and dependent.

Imagine closing yourself up in an office without your cell phone or email. What would happen? Life would carry on and your business would probably function without you, but what would that feel like for you? What a loss. There is something inherent in leadership in that what we do forms our identity – who we define ourselves to be. If the organization doesn’t need us the way we think they do, then what purpose do we serve anyway?

How We Lead Can Be Limiting

There are a couple of things at play here. We want ‘balance’ in our lives, but as soon as we start slowing down we need to speed back up. We get really nervous when we’re not doing something. We also have a need to be needed, and therefore we create dependency and often a non-thinking environment around us. That then enforces the idea that the organization cannot function without us because no one takes the time to think. Why would they when we’re thinking for them? Either we as leaders feel that our employees aren’t as competent as we are, or we just can’t stand to not be in the middle of all the action. The ultimate dilemma is that, the more anxiety we feel, the more we limit the organization’s growth. If we don’t allow our organization to think because we’re thinking for them, and if we’re over-responsible and taking on all the anxiety for the organization, we find ourselves in a position of feeling burnt out and angry. But why would we want to give up that rush?

If we aren’t valued for being the ‘answer’ person and we aren’t valued for dedicating our lives to the company because no one else can do it, what role do we as leaders play in the organization? It’s all we have ever known. The answer is freedom. Giving up the rush of anxiety for freedom allows the organization to grow to a whole new level. The leadership skills we now need to take on are teaching, modeling, coaching and consulting, so that others can make decisions when we’re not around. The value of what we bring to the organization, and to enhance our own leadership development, is now to develop others around the values and vision we hold.

Kick the Addiction

Need help kicking your ‘anxiety addiction’ and freeing yourself as a leader? Utech offers various services and training opportunities to help develop and refine your leadership skills.  Visit our calendar page to see upcoming opportunities or contact us to discuss a personalized developmental plan just for you!