The Worst Thing Leaders Can Do in Times of Anxiety

We often don’t see it coming. There we are staring at our massive amount of tasks and responsibilities, wondering how it happened so quickly. It occurs both in our professional and personal lives. Yet, being overwhelmed or feeling like we have too many projects to turn out in too little time is something all leaders confront. It’s why we are leaders . So what should we do when we are faced with a heavy workload?

We can run and hide.

We can panic and freeze.

We can pretend we have plenty of time.

But all of these paths lead to indecision and inaction. The worst thing leaders can do in times of anxiety is stand still.

Here are some ways for leaders to conquer standing still:


Not all workloads are equal and that means leaders must refine their projects to give them meaning and purpose . We may have a litany of assignments but each has a different value and worth. When I work with leaders and they vent about what’s on their plate, I try to empower them to see the importance of what they are doing. Some empowering questions might include:

  • Which of these tasks are a real priority and which ones don’t I have to do today?
  • How does this project add to the team’s direction?
  • How can I include what’s important to me to give this deliverable a meaningful kick?
  • How can I showcase my strengths and talents through this work?

  • When leaders add their unique gifts to a project it becomes more purposeful to them.


    It can be crushing to face a pile of work that appears insurmountable. We can get stuck, not knowing where to begin. A proven way to look at a large project is to see it as several smaller steps. Think about how you learned to read. First you mastered the letters, then you learned the sounds and finally you pulled it all together to form words. In a similar way we can turn smaller successes into larger achievements by honoring the milestones along the way. Another benefit to separating out the steps is that we see movement forward continually rather than feeling that we are standing still.


    So here’s the crazy part of getting stuck and freezing in place; it carries over into every other part of our professional worlds. Once we are unable to get through our piece of the assignment, our team members will be backlogged too. The hidden detractors of freezing in place include:

  • Deadlines are missed or constantly being moved up
  • We become known as an unreliable team member
  • Our late work is never viewed at its best
  • The team members become very frustrated and that may impact our relationships
  • We may be overlooked for challenging and high visibility projects

  • Relatd: 5 Leadership Empowerment Strategies

    When leaders freeze instead of following through they can miss out on high visibility projects.


    If during a period of intense work you are unable to see the larger picture of what you are doing, then STEP BACK. Without understanding how our work fits into the overall mission of a team or organization’s purpose, then it is impossible to perform at our highest level. It is only when we see where we are headed and how our specific hard work contributes to a meaningful outcome, then we can lead with commitment. To make that happen, leaders must ask about the bigger focus and how specifically they are supporting it.

    How have you conquered standing still? What has empowered you to overcome being stuck?