How Successful Leaders Manage Worry


At every waking moment, multiple concerns run through a leader’s mind. The larger the team, the more numerous those concerns — which then, turn into worries. Defined as a state of uncertainty over actual or potential problems, worrying is not necessarily a bad thing, but letting anxiety take over is never good. So, how do successful leaders manage worry and everyday challenges? They accept that problems will come up. Instead of worrying, they get to solving and preventing. Below are a few of our best tips to help leaders manage worry better and keep a more balanced life.

Sharpen Perception and Get a Big-Picture Perspective

Root out perceived problems from real problems. Focus on the second, forget the first. But how do you know if a problem is not a real problem in the first place?

  • A quick cause-and-effect or action-consequence analysis can reveal the true nature of your worries. For instance, a manager reprimanded someone in your team for coming in late. But that same person actually had his shift changed yesterday. It’s all a misunderstanding.
  • A broader perspective from colleagues and even clients can reveal if there are actual negative consequences to a situation. You worry that ongoing renovation work on the floor above yours will disrupt your team. But the Engineering and Housekeeping department of the building your company is leasing wisely coordinated to schedule noisy work when the offices and commercial spaces are closed. If you mention renovation work to your clients and employees, they’ll probably say, “What renovation?”

Attend Promptly to REAL and On-Going Problems

Among real problems, prioritize actual problems over potential problems that may or may not happen in a few days. Yes, that includes the presentation you’re dreading tomorrow.

Give actual problems prompt attention so you can get them off your list of concerns. Otherwise, new problems will pile up onto your current problems. That’s when anxiety rears its scary head. Jim Folk, founder of www.anxietycentre.com writes that anxiety also persists when the underlying reasons aren’t properly addressed.

Tackle actual problems by breaking them down into manageable segments. Is it equipment failure, procedure flaw, human error, insufficient time, or a communication lapse? Communication is almost always part of the problem. Strive to continuously improve the quality and flow of information within the team and between departments. Once a problem is solved, put steps in place so it doesn’t recur.

Make Preventive Planning a Habit

Potential problems are a major source of worrying. Preventive planning anticipates possible negative outcomes from current ongoing action. But how do you prevent your brain from making away with unending worst case scenarios?

Base preventive planning measures on past problems and their triggers. For instance, a potential client is supposed to meet you at a golf club a few miles away. Do you have a back-up venue ready if it rains? Will you be prepared to talk business if the winds are too strong for a good game? A preventive mindset allows you to set up a plan B and C to avoid foreseeable problems and mitigate unexpected ones.

Practice Delegation to Mentor Others

Are you worrying over problems that others can handle? Assigning someone else to solve a problem is downright hard for high-performing managers. Do it anyway. It frees you to focus on other tasks that ONLY you can really perform. It’s also a good opportunity to groom potential “understudies.”


Meditate, work out, watch a sitcom, or nap to snuff stress and renew your spirit. You’ve covered your bases and ticked off all checklists. There’s little room for worry. You’re now ready for that final step–letting go. When Murphy ’s Law occurs, as it often does, you’ll accept you can’t control everything, and then laugh about it. No worries.

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources and an instructor for The Leader’s Institute® in the Northeast region. She is based in Trenton, NJ but she also can conduct a team activity in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and other Northeast cities.

Author: Michelle Riklan, Date Published: November 24, 2015

Michelle Riklan is president of Riklan Resources. She is based in the New York, NY Region. She is a specialist in corporate team development and public speaking skill classes.

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