Personal leadership

These days, there are many managers with anxiety, and as a leader you will most likely have to deal with anxiety in some way – yours or others. In my profession as an Executive Coach, I talk with highly competent and resourceful executives around the world about their challenges, problems, and objectives in life and in work. One question that is being discussed in many of my virtual coaching sessions these days is, how one is dealing with anxiety as a leader. My clients are executives in multinational corporations. Some of them are anxious for their families, companies, and countries. Actually, often they themselves are in a quite good position, but because they have a wider responsibility what used to be the normal pressure can become extra intense in times of crisis.

Would you prefer reading the article in Danish? Then you can read it here.

Normally, it is my clients company that pays for their sessions. I’d like to make my expertise available for free to a wider audience in this article as I know, that many people are struggling to deal with uncertainty at this time where Corona is making it absolutely impossible for anyone to predict the future. So in this article, you will get three ways to deal with uncertainty.

If you are struggling with how to lead in uncertainty you could also follow my articles on how to lead in uncertainty. 

Being a manager with anxiety or dealing with anxiety as a leader can feel like a lonely affair. But actually you are not alone. Not at all.

Feeling anxious is very common

Anxiety is a normal feeling – unfortunately. The numbers for the UK is, that 8,9 million people in 2018 were under treatment for feeling anxious and the same picture shows in the Nordics. In Denmark, where I am based, 350.000 people are feeling anxious on a daily basis and 1 out of 10 will experience anxiety for some reason in life. But it’s not only in Denmark that anxiety is a common feeling. All over Europe we are feeling more anxious than ever before measured. Actually 12 % of the EU population are in treatment for anxiety.

One of the major reasons for anxiety is crises. The corona crisis it provoking uncertainty and anxiety. In new time the Brexit was a big player in increasing anxiety and stress for the EU citizens and of course mostly in the UK. This was a time (and still is) with huge uncertainty. All over Europe, therapists, coaches, psychologists etc. were seeing a jump in calls just after Brexit (and the following month over month) due to the uncertainty it raised. But, it is not only the major crises, that trigger our feeling of anxiety. Also, changes in life and organisational changes can be triggers. Because of the fact that anxiety, stress and depression are so common, and all three classified as widespread diseases, the European Union has made guidelines for companies and institutions facing organisational changes. To me, it shows that the EU takes it very seriously and recognize the unpleasant truth about how much anxiety, stress and depression are infecting our wellbeing.

Research points at, that especially big changes can cause anxiety, stress, and depression which infect the common wellbeing.

Uncertainty is a normal trigger

As you can tell, uncertainty is a normal trigger in the brain for every human being. David Rock from the NeuroLeadership Institute has conceptualized the research, that scientists have made on what activates fear and stress in people. Certainty is a big trigger. It is just so, that not many people, especially not people in power, have the habit of exposing their anxiety. But that doesn’t mean, that they are not feeling it. On the contrary, a healthy person will sometimes feel anxiety.

Uncertainty and anxiety


3 ways to deal with uncertainty and anxiety

In the following, I will point out three approaches to deal with uncertainty and anxiety. Some of the approaches will feel easy, some will feel hard. It is not all quick fixes, but approaches that can make a substantial impact and improvement. Not just now, but for the rest of your life. Some ways might be more effective for some than others, so feel free to adjust and make them yours. Also, you might need to be able to combine some of the ways or add other ones. Every person is unique and that is one of the reasons why coaching is so effective, because in coaching we identify exactly what is provoking the anxiety in you, and what works for you as a leader dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety. So please consider the following to be more generic.

How we manage our mental energy and how the mental economy is managed in companies and societies are often overlooked. As an executive coach, I have a question for you to reflect upon and some techniques that can boost you and your organisation. Join me for an experience designed to inspire and ignite through inspirational speeches and good food!

You are invited:

The Executive Boost Event hosted together by Top Chef, Henrik Jyrk and me.

Where: at Henrik Jyrk’s restaurant – Ibu on Vesterbrogade 56
When: October 8th at 16.00 – 17.30
RSVP: Purchase your Executive Boost Event tickets here. Bring a colleague or business partner. The event is in English.

The Executive Boost Event programme

  • 16.00 – Welcome
  • Clear or Hooked? Inspirational speech by Executive Coach, Josefine Campbell, on managing personal and professional energy
  • Food boost. How you can use food to boost energy and recharge your batteries by Top Chef Henrik Jyrk.
  • Serving energy-boosting food
  • Networking
  • 17.30 – End of programme. You are welcome to stay and can book a table for dinner.

In this video, Henrik and I share a bit about what we are planning for you.

You might know Henrik as the TV chef from Go’ Morgen Danmark or from his previous restaurant, KUL, that received a Michelin star. This event takes place at his present restaurant, Ibu that specialises in Asian fusion, located on Vesterbrogade 56 in Copenhagen.

IBU Copenhagen
Ibu Copenhagen

Also, I mentioned earlier that I had a question for you…

The question is, am I hooked or am I clear?

Am I hooked or am I clear? This is an intelligent question to ask oneself from time to time, especially when under pressure, lacking sleep or when your nutrition or diet is poor. Whenever you experience fatigue or stress, the more sophisticated parts of the brain become vulnerable and can get hijacked by the primitive, yet powerful reptilian brain. When the reptilian brain takes over it ignites the oversimplified responses of fight, flight or freeze. This can be disguised in emotions and thoughts that we automatically identify with.

The cost? Bad decisions, which can lead to bad results or bad relationships. The most powerful leaders and top athletes, it happens to us all. Sometimes we are too low on mental bandwidth or energy, and our brain gets hooked. Once it is hooked, that counter-productive internal dialogue can take over. How to counter this? You can read more on this topic from my article on agility.

“It doesn’t happen to me”, some might say. But, what about your people? And, what is the cost for you on that account?

Harvard Published author, Susan David writes,

Leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line. This happens in one of two ways. They buy into the thoughts, treating them like facts (It was the same in my last job…I’ve been a failure my whole career), and avoid situations that evoke them (I’m not going to take on that new challenge). Or, usually at the behest of their supporters, they challenge the existence of the thoughts and try to rationalize them away (I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…I know I’m not a total failure), and perhaps force themselves into similar situations, even when those go against their core values and goals (Take on that new assignment—you’ve got to get over this). In either case, they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

David, S. & Congleton, C. (2013) Managing Yourself – Emotional Agility. Harvard Business Review. Available from: https://hbr.org/2013/11/emotional-agility

Learn more at the Executive Boost Event. I hope to see you there.

Tickets can be purchased here.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me at hello@josefinecampbell.com.

Good management in high-performance environments

We are constantly updating software on our smartphones. Imagine your brain as a computer that can be upgraded. As you grow your awareness, you get a stronger operating system that can handle heavier programs and more graphics. A software update is the metaphor we use to explain conscious management. Conscious management is a way of good management, especially in high performance environments.