How anxiety impacts your leadership – Part Two

In Part One of “How Anxiety Impacts Your Leadership,” I shared a story from the book by Tod Bolsinger entitled “Canoeing the Mountains.” In the book he shared the story of how when a herd of impala in the brutal African heat find a watering hole they rush to drink, crowding in, fearful of not getting enough water to sustain them. Suddenly, one impala raises his head on high alert. Immediately every other impala stops drinking and stands at attention. At that moment, every impala has a life-or-death decision: 
 
Is this a lion or not?
 
If there is a lion lurking near that spot and they don’t run, they become lion lunch. If there’s no lion lurking near the hole and they do run, they lose their place at the watering hole and could die of thirst. 
 
If there is a lion and they run, or if there is no lion and they don’t run, they live another day. But all that matters is: Is that a lion or not? Everything in their impala being is focused on making that crucial life-and-death decision. Just like they do every day. Numerous times a day.
 
Part of what helps the impala make that decision is the herd energy, the animal anxiety that permeates the group and causes them to share listening, hearing, and 
deciding together. 
 
The key takeaway from part one is found in how the impala has to make this split-second decision of determining whether the threat is a lion or not. And translating that into leadership,  are we making decisions based on fear or facts and whether the threats we sense are real or made up? These are critical decisions that have to be made and it’s important to your leadership and your team to get it right.
 
In our high-anxiety moments as leaders, much is riding on the decision-making process we engage in. As leaders, what are the one or two things that you can do to instill confidence and clarity in the moment? Here in part two, let me offer up a few suggestions.
 
Stay calm
 
We’ve heard this statement so much that sometimes I wonder if its true effect is lost on us. So what does stay calm really mean for you and me as leaders? Bolsinger defines it this way: “To stay calm is to be so aware of yourself that your response to the situation is not to the anxiety to the people around you but to the actual issue at hand.” And it’s when you are leading on this level that you know you are effective. When your actions as a leader do not raise or contribute to the level of anxiety of those around you, then you know you have a calming effect as a leader.
 
As a leader, you don’t want to make threats – whether real or perceived – any worse. You want to be able to lead your people with a steady hand and laser-like focus. This can only happen when you are 
calm on the inside and out.
 
Make better decisions
 
An obvious byproduct of staying calm is your ability to make better decisions. Bolsigner’s perspective is: “For leaders, the point of calming down is not to feel better; it’s to make better decisions. It’s to make the best decisions for furthering the mission. When people are too hot, they don’t.”
 
And this is the point we have to remember; anxiety leads to poor-decision making. Whether that’s coming from the people you lead or you as the leader, it can derail the mission because bad decisions were made. Making good decisions is not about being lucky. It’s a result of smart intuitive leadership instincts developed over time and experience. 
 
Final Thoughts
 
In one way or another, anxiety is going to impact your leadership. When it does, you can channel that energy into something positive, lead from a place of calm and inner strength, make better decisions, and lead your team forward. 
 
©2022 Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson is a certified leadership speaker, trainer, and coach. Learn more at
dougdickerson.net/.
 

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