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Managing Your Anxiety as a Leader

By Jim LaDoux
Director of Coaching & Coaching School

“All people should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.” – James Thurber

Anxiety is common among ministry leaders—for good reason… Three-quarters of pastors (75%) say they feel “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed,” and nine out of 10 (90%) say they feel fatigued and worn out every week. On top of all the “conventional” challenges pastors face, the pandemic brought with it a storm of challenges, making anxiety a headwind for most leaders. And anxiety among leaders feeds into an anxious ministry environment. These questions can help you surface your own anxiety, then seek and find God’s help to move through it with redemptive strength…

1 | Leaders create healthy cultures when they are self-aware and also group-aware. 
What are you doing to become more self-aware as a leader? What’s one practical thing you can do to be more group-aware?

2 | Anxiety is contagious, which is why it shows up in groups as well as individuals. 
Who do you work with that tends to the raise the anxiety of the group? What’s the difference between people being anxious and people being uncomfortable?

3 | Leadership is intuitive because most situations are fluid and dynamic. 
How comfortable are you with not having the answers and not knowing what to do ahead of time? How does the need to control affect your capacity to lead well? “One way a leader grows is to lead something”—how have you found this to be true in your life?

4 | Leadership is about managing anxiety under the surface: yours and theirs. 
Burnout has less to do with workload and more to do with leadership anxiety—what are the primary sources of your anxiety? In general, in your congregation, what do you notice about how people are relating? What impact has it had when you listened to learn rather than listened to defend? How are you, right now, filling yourself first and then serving out of the overflow?

5 | Creating an emotionally healthy culture for people can help their spiritual growth. 
Healthy culture encourages people to stop pretending and blaming others—based on that “metric,” how healthy is your culture? What’s something you can start doing to help others find freedom from shame and reduce their defensiveness? What are the pockets of safe spaces in your organization, and how did they develop?

6 | Anxiety blocks our awareness of God because it rivets our subconscious attention. 
“What you focus on determines what you miss”—how has this statement been true in your leadership experience? In what ways are you learning to be more present to others?

7 | “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 
What self-limiting beliefs do you need to let go of? What long-held assumptions do you or your church hold that need to be revisited?

8 | The story we tell ourselves infects reality and shapes what actually is. 
What aspects of your self-narrative are dragging you down instead of lifting you up? How is the story you tell yourself leading to exhaustion?

9 | If you don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. 
What can you add to your calendar that is designed to fuel your own self-care? What’s one thing you can add to your calendar that will invite you into deep thinking and creative work?

10 | Leaders have to reinvent their practices and approaches constantly.
In what ways are you leading more from your gifts rather than your position? How would you respond to “Why do people follow me ?” If people learn more by doing something followed by reflection, how does that change how you equip or disciple others?

Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching & Coaching School for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).

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