Today’s world is extremely chaotic. There are new challenges to face every day. Globalization has significantly widened the playing field. Technology is changing rapidly. In addition, the apparent global expectation of responding immediately to everyone—while staying on top of everything and simultaneously giving better service—is raising the pressure to a frenzied level. Is the velocity of change going to slow? On the contrary, it’s going to accelerate.
What I’m seeing as a Worry Management Expert is that because the changes are so rapid and profound, individuals at every level of business are stressed. Changes breed uncertainty and uncertainty creates fear. That fear is keeping people stuck. Whether you’re a leader of your company, organization, team, or family, you need to help model calm in the chaos. That doesn’t mean you must control the chaos. As the quote goes, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
The following 9 Habits of Worry-Free Leaders will give you insight on how to remain calm in the middle of change, challenge, and chaos. Even if you’re already a worry-free leader and have embraced the tumultuous times, I’ll bet you know someone who is struggling. You likely lead, love, or live with someone who is worrying and/or under enormous pressure. Learn the habits and share them with those you lead so that they can become as effective, both personally and professionally, as possible.
HABIT #1: Worry-Free Leaders act with integrity.
Worry-Free Leaders understand how important it is to be someone others trust. They also know the way to keep that trust is to act with integrity. Acting with integrity is about being honest and reliable, and keeping the promises you make to the people you lead and to yourself.
It’s something you need to do in every area of your life. If you promised your family you’d work harder to improve your relationship, do it. If you promised yourself you’d get in shape, exercise, eat better, do it. If you don’t, if you sweep it under the rug, you’ll be consumed by it. It’ll eat away at you, take your focus, and block you from becoming the best leader you can be. Don’t trick yourself into believing you don’t have the time or that it doesn’t matter. You do and it does.
If you’ve already had a breach of integrity, instead of worrying about what has been done, take action to fix it if you can. If you’re unable to fix it, ask yourself: What did I learn from this? What will I do differently next time? Learning from our mistakes helps us avoid repeating them in the future. In addition, when we learn from our experiences, we transform a potential negative into something of value.
HABIT#2: Worry-Free Leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable.
Worry-Free Leaders know that vulnerability breeds trust. For that reason, they give themselves permission to be vulnerable with their clients and the people they lead. Part of being vulnerable means admitting when you’ve made a mistake. In Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked: A Business Fable about Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty, he writes, “Clients don’t expect perfection from the service providers they hire, but they do expect honesty and transparency. There is no better way to demonstrate this than by acknowledging when a mistake has been made and humbly apologizing for it.” You’re human and you’re going to slip up now and again. Life is a learning process. Besides, the key to success isn’t to achieve a perfect result each and every time you act. It’s to learn from what happens—whether good, bad, or indifferent—and correct your actions until you get what you were looking for. When you’ve made a mistake learn from it, admit it, and move on.
When you give yourself the gift of vulnerability, your fear of making mistakes will lessen, your ability to recover from setbacks will be fortified, and your inner peace and confidence will grow.
HABIT #3: Worry-Free Leaders let go of the past.
To be a world-class leader, you need to be a visionary. You’re not going to be effective as a visionary if you’re stuck in the past. Worry-Free Leaders have learned to let go of the resentments and baggage of yesterday knowing that holding on to it slows them down, weighs them down, and keeps them stagnant.
Let go of the past through forgiveness. What is forgiveness? It’s understanding that you cannot go back and change the past; and it’s accepting that those experiences—no matter how traumatic, painful, or unhappy they may have been—were simply lessons from which to learn. On all levels (whether negative or positive, emotional, physical, or psychological) those lessons were meant to teach you how to be who you are in this moment—a wiser, more empowered you. You need to understand and accept that today you’re the person you are because of what you’ve learned. Once you accept those lessons—and truly learn from them—the negatives of yesterday will never affect you again. Forgive yourself and let the past go.
HABIT #4: Worry-Free Leaders focus on choices.
Worry-free Leaders don’t agonize over their current situation because they realize it’s not permanent. They understand they have the power to make different choices and that acting upon those choices will allow them to change their circumstances for the better.
You have that same power. You can choose to learn something new each day instead of watching an extra half hour of television. You can choose activity over inactivity. You can choose truth over illusion. Focusing on choices—and acting upon them—puts you in the driver’s seat of your life.
HABIT #5: Worry-Free Leaders take action to control the controllable.
Worry-Free Leaders invest their energy taking action to control the things they can. They under- stand that no matter how disastrous their situation appears to be or how dire it actually is, it’s nearly always possible to improve it by taking action.
It’s important to realize that sometimes worry is acting as a prompt for you to take action. For instance, stress over your financial situation may be prompting you to consult a financial planner or credit counsellor. Concern about your health might be pushing you to see a doctor, consult a nutritionist, or start an exercise program. When a worry comes up, instead of allowing fearful thoughts to control you, roll up your sleeves and do what you can to improve the situation. As Colorado’s first Congress- woman, Patricia Schroeder, said, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
HABIT #6: Worry-Free Leaders let go of the uncontrollable.
Worry-Free Leaders are well aware that some facts are beyond their control, for example, globalization, the speed at which technology is changing, and the actions of other people. Instead of wasting their energy fighting the uncontrollable, Worry-Free Leaders accept the situation, let go of negative thoughts about it, and refocus on the things they can control.
If no amount of thinking, forcing, or coaxing will alter your situation accept that fact. Without acceptance, you’ll continue to fight, resist, and struggle, which will erode your energy and focus. Next, ask yourself: Which thoughts and old beliefs do I need to let go of? Let go of any thoughts about the situation that are causing upsetting feelings; such as impatience, fear, or anger. One way to do this is to trust that behind every challenge is opportunity. When you do, you’ll soon discover that perceived obstacles are really blessings in disguise. Sometimes these obstacles serve to nudge you in a new direction—one that will open up your personal and professional life to magnificent experiences. Sometimes they help you become a stronger, better, and wiser you. Take all the positives you can out of each experience and choose to leave the negative feelings behind. Finally, refocus on the things that are within your control and take action accordingly.
HABIT #7: Worry-Free Leaders embrace change and the velocity at which it takes place.
Change can create uncertainty, uncertainty can create fear, and fear can keep people stuck. Worry-Free Leaders recognize this and choose instead to become comfortable with uncertainty. They embrace change and the speed at which it’s taking place in today’s world. They know it’s the only way to succeed. The changes happening in our world are rapid and profound. Trying to resist it won’t stop it. Embrace it by realizing the magnificent opportunities within it and learn to reframe the way you view change. For instance, suppose you catch yourself—or someone you lead—saying, “I can’t keep up with the rapid changes.” Change this fearful thought into something true and positive; such as, “This rapid time of change is a blessing because as a strong leader, I can use it to move my team and our vision forward so much faster.” The positive thought creates a presence of mind that overcomes, controls, and defeats negative thinking.
HABIT #8: Worry-Free Leaders choose affiliations wisely.
It’s extremely difficult to be your best when you’re surrounded by negative people. For that reason, worry-free leaders choose their affiliations wisely. Business philosopher Jim Rohn said, “You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay?”
Surround yourself with individuals who share your vision and values and who will inspire you to become the world-class leader you were meant to become.
HABIT #9: Worry-Free Leaders have the courage to share their concerns.
In a leadership role, sharing concerns with others can be uncomfortable. Leaders can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking they need to have all the answers and that they should avoid showing insecurity, doubt, or fear. Worry-Free Leaders know that it takes a very secure person to share his or her insecurities.
As a leader, you need to have the courage to share your concerns and problems with others who may be able to help and support you. It can propel you to even greater levels of success.