How can you lead a congregation without feeling anxiety?
You can’t. No one lives life or leads anything without some anxiety. However, we can all learn to manage and direct our anxiety.
Here are eleven tools and actions that can help to decrease and handle anxiety as a leader. This mnemonic will help you remember them:
- DEcisive and clear. Be clear about who you are and what you believe. Develop a vision and goals that reflect your core values. Allow yourself to choose positions or options and move forward, and/or to step away from positions or options you cannot support. Don’t be afraid to explain yourself clearly, even when others may disagree. Initially you may feel some agitation as you do this, but in the long run clarity helps you and those around you to focus. This decreases anxiety.
- Self-awareness. Understand your own responses or figure out why you respond the way you do. For example, when a leader reacts to a situation with an intensity of emotion that seems out of proportion, he or she, uses self-awareness by recognizing what is happening internally and reflecting on past events that might have triggered the reaction.
- Take time to think before responding. Instead of jumping forward with a quick fix, take time to think things through and make a thoughtful decision about how to respond. This often involves managing one’s own initial anxiety instead of trying to push it away or shift it to others with a fast response.
- Reach out to people with different viewpoints. Connect with people even if they do not share the same viewpoint. Hearing other people share perspectives that are different from your own may trigger anxiety. When acting non-anxiously, a leader will control the anxiety that surfaces in one’s self. Reaching out includes not being afraid to talk directly to another person when there is a disagreement between you.
- Examine. Notice everything that is going on and pay attention to a multitude of perspectives. Don’t ignore things that make your uncomfortable. Think through various possibilities. Don’t push aside the possibilities you don’t like, examine then in detail too.
- Self-reflection. Study yourself using tools and resources to develop an understanding of how you feel and how you respond in various situations. This is a life time project. We can always learn more about ourselves and our responses.
- Speak up even when expecting others to disagree. When a leader acts in a non-anxious way, he or she is aware that speaking up can cause anxiety, but works to control that anxiety in self.
- Take responsibility for your role. Point the finger at yourself and focus primarily on what you could have done differently to change the situation. Acknowledge responsibility to yourself, and when appropriate acknowledging it out loud to others.
- Observe. Pay close attention to the actions and reactions of everyone involved in a situation including yourself. Notice verbal and non-verbal communication. Study all that is going on around you with a sense of being a curious, outside observer. If you feel anxiety, notice that. If you see signs of anxiety in others, note that.
- Options and multiple possibilities. Realize that there are many ways of looking at a situation and many options for response. Consider and examine many possibilities, even ones that seem silly or that contradict your initial way of viewing things. Do this with a playful spirit if you can. That will help reduce or eliminate a sense of being threatened by options.
- Listen without judgement. Try to understand other people’s perspectives without imposing your own view, and without trying to convince the other person to change their view. When acting non-anxiously, you respect people who share perspectives different from your own and try to learn from others. This does not mean you have to agree.
Notice that anxiety is often present when a grounding leader uses these tools. What matters is that he or she learns how to control the anxiety and direct it in positive ways.
Keep in mind that these are ideals to work towards. There are not leaders who are completely non-anxious and others who are completely anxious. We all have days and time periods when we do better or worse.
If you want to manage your anxiety as a leader, notice when you use these grounding tools and actions and expand on them. Work on incorporating the tools and actions into your life that you don’t typically use.
When you want to act non-anxiously as a leader remember De-STRESS TOOL.