In today’s chaotic, ever-changing environments, where uncertainty and anxiety are seemingly at an all-time high, people are craving a sense of calm. They are seeking a leader who can serve as a non-anxious presence in the midst of the daily whirlwinds that surround us. When I use the term non-anxious presence, I mean a leader who is able to bring a sense of calm to an otherwise volatile or unsettled situation. How do you do that when you, as the leader, may also be feeling uncertain?
Stop saying “they” and start saying “we”.
When you focus on what “they” are doing to you, your power and sense of calm drain out of you like there’s a hole in your bucket, and your anxiety and sense of helplessness tend to increase in equal measure. One of the quickest ways to infuse a non-anxious presence is shift your focus to what “we” can do. That simple change in pronouns — from they to we — puts you and your people on offense rather than defense. Every time someone on your team utters a “they”, counter with a “we” … as in “Okay, what are we going to do about it?” “We” is active, “they” is passive. “We” indicates a calm resolve, where “they” feels like you have lost control. “We” is non-anxious. Make it your pronoun of choice.
Turn down the volume.
Another way to serve as a non-anxious presence is to turn down the volume on all the what-ifs and what-abouts because, left unattended, they grow both in size and volume over time causing your people to become more and more anxious. Instead, turn up the volume on what is most important — your mission, vision, values and strategic intent. Even though your “how” may get derailed during chaotic times, your “what” should not. Focusing on those things that will not change, even when numerous other things are unpredictable, provides a solid place for your people to stand, allowing them to take a deep breath and find an inner sense of calm.
“We can’t do that” is a frequent refrain in volatile times, to which a non-anxious leader should ask “why?” Amidst the chaos, the rule book often becomes irrevelant, and yet people often cling to “the rules” or “they way we have always done it” as a presumed source of safety. They aren’t. Options that may not have been considered during periods of calm, with more controlled variables, may become the best option during chaotic times. Every possibility should be considered based on the current variables rather than clinging to approaches designed for a different time and place, and every attempt to close a door should be challenged with a why.
As the leader, your actions are contagious. An organization will never be less anxious than its leader, however if you approach a chaotic situation with a sense of calm your people will too. It’s a volatile world out there . . . lead on.