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What can make leadership such a burden, and how to finally enjoy it

Do you know that feeling that comes with a promotion or a new position? A short-lived joy of the ego and the beginning of an anxious feeling shouting. Will I make it?

There's so much to do in a new position: you're supposed to learn quickly, make a difference fast, motivate your team, and boost the reluctant people. You also have to satisfy the enthusiasm (not to call it pressure) of your boss, who's constantly launching new projects, and sell your plan to every key stakeholder, convincing and pushing tactfully. 

Add this damned uncertain world, the recurrent ambiguity, the contradictory injunctions (change but don't change too much), and the volatility of the situation, and you have the perfect storm to develop a nice anxiety or at least solid stress. And the dream job soon feels like a burden.

Let me challenge that idea: this is not the root cause of your sensation of burden. Go ahead, get a more nuanced vision, and know how to eliminate the burden.

Business conversation with managers hesitating on wha to do.
The burden of leadership is related to doubts. What are yours? Credit: Canva

The difference between the burden of overload and the burden of overwhelm

The above is a source of what we call overload: learning, delivering projects, preparing presentations, changing scenarios, managing people, etc. If you have a workload issue and are assertive enough, you'll prioritize and push your hierarchy to make decisions.

The real burden comes when you lack this assertiveness and feel that, in any case, you need to prove yourself. It's when being overloaded is amplified by a sense of overwhelm.

  • It's the fear of making a decision

  • The doubt about the reaction of John

  • The avoidance of a tough conversation

  • The over-preparation for a presentation

  • The hesitations in front of your boss

  • The anxiety to speak publicly

These crippling feelings add to the workload, slow you down, and drain your energy.

"In overload, you pile up the tasks. In overwhelm, you pile up thoughts of all kinds," Coach Michael Neill sums up the phenomenon very well.

The real problem is that you doubt yourself.

The origins of the actual burden of leadership

If you're experiencing the burden of overwhelm, you are very likely familiar with this little voice in the background:

  • Will I be liked?

  • Is it safe to act this way?

  • Am I good enough?

This background self-doubt makes you hesitant, fearful, over-cautious, or procrastinating. This little voice even prevents you from managing your workload: I can't say I have too much; will I be seen as not up to the task?

The real problem is that you doubt yourself.

The consequence of self-doubt on your leadership

So, on the outside, you look self-confident and enthusiastic - even if somewhat tense - but thanks God, nobody knows what's happening inside, right? You dissimulate what you don't want others to see, but it prevents you from being yourself and costs you some additional energy.

"Leaders often feel that they must project an image of strength and confidence, which can be at odds with their feelings of vulnerability and their need to seek support and advice from others," as Forbes reminded us in a piece last year.

This underlying self-doubt makes leadership a burden because many of the activities related to it are confrontational (e.g. the feedback game, conflict management, resistance management, etc.). Worse, it makes you appear inauthentic when you hide so much!

Oh, and to be clear, this little voice is not your soul talking to you. I guarantee you this sounds differently...

The different types of doubt and how to handle them

So, your different types of doubts will need to be addressed in different ways:

First, ambiguity, uncertainty, and volatility generate doubts and they are here to stay. They make you doubt about the situation, and that's healthy doubt. The ability to live in the in-between, the unknown, is a much-needed quality nowadays.

Then, there are doubts about your ideas and opinions. You feel confident in certain areas, less in others. That's related to your expertise, which you can work on and expand. You are also welcome to ask a specialist when you haven't mastered a topic. That's where you will activate collective intelligence.

As we said, the killer doubt is the doubt about yourself: "Am I good enough?" It's when your worth is at stake. It's the "Who do you think you are?" Or "They'll see I'm a fraud."

This doubt is a thought that creates a negative emotion that conditions your actions. It will also condition every reaction: the feedback taken personally or the different opinion seen as disapproval of who you are. 

There lies the real burden. In its most articulated form in the workplace, it's called imposter syndrome. The worst part is that it prevents you from adequately managing the two other types of doubt!

You can get rid of self-doubt and boost your leadership

Now, imagine a life with peace of mind, an unshakable sense of worth to face your day-to-day, and the ability to see that what is happening around you is not about you but your counterparts. From this groundedness, you'll tackle all the business and people-related challenges very differently.

These doubts have been created in your mind. If you've created them, you can change and even eliminate them. It's a work worth doing because this groundedness,

It's where your assertiveness to challenge the expectations lies.

It's where your ability to investigate the resistance of a team member lies

It's where changing your strategy or saying you made a mistake comes from

If this is your burden, you can eliminate it by working on yourself. If you're curious, watch my masterclass on eliminating imposter syndrome-related symptoms in 3 months or less. Click the link below and get instant access!

In a nutshell

The doubts that come with leadership/management are healthy as long as they are about the next move, the situation, ideas, and technicalities, etc. They become toxic the moment they are about yourself. That can make leadership a real burden and plunge you into work overload and overwhelm. Start discriminating, become aware, and refine your understanding.

Cultivate healthy doubts, which are much needed in today's business world. Work on your self-doubt, which is hijacking your performance and making what should be a growth adventure a burden.

This can change. I changed. My clients have changed. Check out my free masterclass and discover how.

A sense of freedom and ease is closer than you might think. And so is the pleasure of your leadership role!


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