Leadership in an Age of Anxiety

Honestly, I have always been an anxious person. 

Many times our greatest gifts come with a counterproductive downside. I’m a thinker and a problem solver. So my mind is constantly running through what-if scenarios and thinking about how I would solve problems that arise.

This is a gift and a talent. It is also a curse. It keeps me imagining worst-case scenarios and from enjoying the moment.

When I was a kid, my parents would go away for their anniversary in October. My sister and I would stay with our aunt and uncle. I can recall with vivid clarity wondering what would happen if my parents were killed or injured in a car accident while they were traveling. 

I’m now in the second half of my life, and my parents are still alive and well.

Last Christmas, our family went to the Christmas tree lighting outside the New York State Capitol building. While waiting for the ceremony to begin, a thought jumped into my head. “This would be the perfect place for a mass shooter to strike.”

The whole event went off without a hitch. 

All that to say, anxiety has been a constant companion for as long as I can remember.

And while I am far from healthy, two thoughts about anxiety have been helping me a lot in the last year.

  1. My anxiety is always looking for its next “host.”

    For decades, I believed that anxiety was happening TO me, and if I just solved the next set of problems, it would go away.


    Wrong.

    Once one problem or scenario passes, anxiety quickly jumps to the next thing that could go wrong. Thus attaching itself to that problem as its “host.”

  2. Anxiety is based on whether I think I can handle what happens more than what actually happens.

    For instance, if I am on a long road trip and my car makes a funny noise, I think I am anxious about my car breaking down. In reality, I am anxious about whether or not I can handle my car breaking down.

    There is a big difference.

    My car has broken down before, and I have managed it.


So why is this important to me as a leader?

It is easier to manage tasks and schedules than it is my mind.

So to be the best leader that I can be, I must find healthy ways to lead my mind. 

  • I must recall the challenges that I have overcome in the past. Remembering that I can handle more than I think I can.
  • I must lean into friendships that are encouraging and supportive. 
  • I must wash my brain with practical insights from other world-class leaders. (Check out Leadercast 365)
  • I must watch and listen to inspirational stories.
  • I must remember that I am not a victim. I have agency over my life.


The age of anxiety is not going away anytime soon, so what the world needs is leaders who will pave the way for a more healthy mindset to tackle our challenges.

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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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