How to masterfully lead you and your team through anxiety, doubt and uncertainty
Anxiety is a human condition. The sensation of tightening in shoulders; maybe a pit in your stomach; the desire to close down and control everything we can; because you are worried there is something unpleasant “out there” and, whatever it is, it is a possible danger.
Anxiety shows up more and more in a world that presents increasing demands and uncertain outcomes in new areas we’ve never been.
The Antidote for Anxiety is Creativity
If Anxiety closes and immobilizes, then Creativity is the force that opens and drives new action.
Creativity is the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.
In the world of Leadership we are focused on the creation of relationships, aligned actions and culture. Creative Leaders focus on:
- Awareness of our automatic, reactive ways of dealing with uncertainty, fears and threats
- Creating new capabilities to align our visions with our actions
- New visions and strategies for achieving our visions
- New conversations that open possibilities and deeper commitments
- New relationships; new ways of being in existing relationships
- New actions that are aligned with our visions and commitments
- The creation of cultures enable individuals create shared visions and align actions
Being a Creative Leader brings focus to yourself and expands in to your organization. If you focus on creation then you will experience reduced anxiety for yourself and your team.
Anxiety will reduce, but never go way. To be a conscious human in an uncertain world will always produce anxiety.
There will always be doubt. The fear that what we are creating won’t help. In fact, we might doubt that our creative solutions will work at all!
Doubt is the unsureness we feel when in new territory. Creativity, doing something new with uncertain outcomes, is certain to produce doubt.
The Antidote to Doubt is Faith
Doubt causes us to hesitate; to question if you are doing the right thing right; to be unsure that your action will produce desired results in a world with uncertain outcomes.
Faith allows us to believe without relying on evidence. Faith allows us to remain committed to our visions, values, beliefs and actions. Faith is the force that mitigates the hesitation of doubt.
Faithful Leaders persevere in the face of uncertainty and doubt. They:
- Make bold declarations for the future
- Have new conversations that inspire authentic commitment and aligned action
- Support themselves and their organizations when the inevitable setbacks occur
- Demonstrate perseverance and integrity; walk the talk as an example to their team
- Discover new competencies and greater confidence for themselves and their team
Faith acknowledges uncertainty and doubt. It is not the “Blind Faith” that creates a false sense of certainty and security.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
But yet, uncertainty will always be present.
In the context of strategies, decisions, agreements and actions there will always be the uncertainties in the outcome. History’s repeating lesson is the uncertainty of the future far exceeds our ability to predict and control it.
The Antidote to Uncertainty is Curiosity
Possible reactions as the future unfolds include surprise, delight, horror, fear, joy, etc. The ability to be curious opens us to learning. Instead of ignoring or resenting the future as it unfolds, being curious engages us in life and allows the possibility for new viewpoints, decisions and actions.
Curious leaders are intrigued and even fascinated by the outcomes of decisions and actions. To engage their curiosity they:
- View decisions and actions as experiments, testing the hypothesis of the expected outcome.
- Encourage acceptance and clarity of present moment. They are aware of the tendency to deny an uncomfortable relatiye.
- Seek lessons to apply to the future.
- Find themselves having gratitude for opportunities (aka challenges)
Curiosity opens us to the many possibilities and uncertainties of the future. The path to accessing curiosity is the unintuitive practices of “unlearning” our current viewpoints and adopting the mindset of “not knowing”.
In times of change, those who are prepared to learn will inherit the land, while those who think they already know will find themselves wonderfully equipped to face a world that no longer exists.
I want to acknowledge my clients, coaches, mentors, colleagues, friends and family for inspiring and supporting me in my journey to better understand and coach others in their leadership. Coaches Dan Newby, Rick Tamlyn and Tony Zampella have been particularly inspirational to this writing.
Of course, I would love to hear about your successes and challenges with anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. My joy is to inspire thoughtful leaders to bold, impactful action.