Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops

Business Articles

by DonPaglia

Our leaders are working under an increasing level of anxiety.  They face difficult questions like: How can they motivate people?  How can they do more with less?  How can they better balance their lives?  How can they create change? How can they reduce stress in the work place?
The more questions, the more desire for answers and the greater the push for certainty.
Consultants have been cashing in for years on this anxiety.  Companies get wooed by the promise for certainty with the newest and latest skill or technique.  One more leading edge technology with one more disappointment, all because leaders are like everyone else, they want a cure  – a quick fix – for their anxiety.
Anxious work systems, like anxious people, manifest the following characteristics:

  • Reactivity.  This is an automatic response.  In an anxious business, people  get reactive to each other and begin to focus on trivial issues and behavior. Things get serious, and the workplace loses its sense of playfulness and flexibility.  Behavior is driven more by emotion than careful thought.  Fear of litigation and issues of political correctness are examples of such serious behaviors and focus.
  • Herding.  As people get anxious, they have an urge to group together and become fused.  This is not camaraderie.  Herding is designed to protect the group from anything that they feel threatens them, which may include responsible leadership.
  • Blaming.  Anxiety creates blaming because no one wants to take                 responsibility. Defensive behavior becomes the norm.  Everyone blames someone else.  Immaturity increases and the organization becomes too fragile to solve its problems.
  • Quick –fix mentality.  Anything that promises to ease the pain of anxiety will become popular within the system.  At this point, companies are easy targets for techniques and “right” answers that promise to solve all problems.

Work systems become anxious because there is an absence of leadership that
helps its members distinguish between real and imagined threats and the ensuing fear that produces the chronic anxiety.  Such a work system will begin to sustain itself and feed on its own anxiety.

At this point everything becomes confusing and inhibits change.  Such a work system then becomes stuck – unable to move forward, locked up without any possibility for new or imaginative movement. It is organizational “grip-lock.

What is needed is not the promise of a new technique or certainty, but the calmness of its clear and well-defined leader.  Effective leaders are non-anxious people who don’t get sidetracked by the symptoms of anxiety, but who promote vision that guides the way.

The leader is a person who takes a stand for a possibility beyond what is predictable, even beyond what the circumstances and rationalizations would seem to allow.  They also have the emotional stamina and courage to work on the interlocking causes of anxiety and the mindless sabotage that resists them as they go about creating change.

We are faced today with more and more complex problems and the desire for certainty is attractive, but unrealistic.  Rather than falling for the tempting and temporary relief of the quick fix, leaders would be better off developing maturity to lower their anxiety as well as reduce the need for certainty.

Leaders are ordinary human beings who rely less on skills and techniques and more on their own capacity to be a self in the world, who are willing to take a stand, who are willing to be imaginative and creative, and who refuse to get caught up in the seriousness of anxious-drive reactivity of those around them.

They are people who can stand alone, if they need to, but who also know how to remain connected to the rest of their organization while still being a fully well defined self.  Such a person is extremely valuable for any organization.