The following excerpt is from the article “Relax, Being Anxious Makes You a Good Leader,” written by Jane Porter and published on FastCompany.com. Porter writes about anxiety and how it can push us to perform at our peak. There are many anxious moments you face each and every day while managing your store, but they don’t have to keep you from performing at your best. Read the full article to learn why anxiety has been linked to effective leadership and how you can channel yours toward enhanced management.
We live in an over-anxious world--gadgets buzzing and flashing in our faces at all hours of the day, reminding us what needs to be done. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the country, trumping even depression, with one in seven Americans suffering from some form of anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
My Age of Anxiety a new book by Scott Stossel, editor of the Atlantic, explores our complex understanding of anxiety--where it comes from and why--braided into Stossel's personal struggles with anxiety over the years.
Among the conclusions Stossel draws in the book, is the idea that anxiety can equip you to be a good leader. Stossel's reasoning: "Anxious people, because they are vigilantly scanning the environment for threats, tend to be more attuned than adrenaline junkies to other people's emotions and social signals."
While being overly anxious is often seen as a negative quality, a growing body of research indicates a connection between anxiety and intelligence. The link between anxiety and creativity certainly fits with the trope of the suffering artist. Creative geniuses from Emily Dickenson to Franz Kafka to T.S. Eliot were all rankled by nervousness. What's more, a study published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2013 reveals that neurotic people actually do better in group or team-work than expected, while extroverted people do worse.
Those who study anxiety through the lens of leadership have come to discover that it can be essential to setting, reaching and surpassing one's goals. "Without anxiety, little would be accomplished," says to David Barlow, founder of the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University. "The performance of athletes, entertainers, executives, artisans, and students would suffer; creativity would diminish; crops might not be planted."
There's a fine line to tread here, of course. When you worry about screwing up, you increase your chances of screwing up, according to a study by Sian Beilock, from the University of Chicago. The key is finding balance--not letting the sturm und drang of nervousness get to you.
"It's kind of a Goldilocks law," says Stossel. "Too little anxiety and you will not perform at your peak … too much anxiety and you will not perform well; but with just the right amount of anxiety--enough to elevate your physiological arousal and to focus your attention intensely on the task … you'll be more likely to deliver a peak performance."
What do you think? Is anxiety a motivator for you? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.