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Self-Coaching Tactics for Navigating Leadership Anxiety as a New Leader

September 7, 2022

Let’s be real: stepping into leadership for the first time can feel like walking a tightrope. You’re grappling with pressure, expectations, and a fair dose of leadership anxiety. The good news? It’s all part of the journey, and with a few self-coaching techniques, you can turn these challenges into stepping stones. Let’s dive into some strategies that can help you navigate leadership anxiety and grow as a confident leader.

The Answer to Leadership Anxiety — Self-Coaching!

I would say that self-coaching is something I learned, honed, and employed intentionally and strategically through my experience in leadership – but that would be a lie. Self-coaching is something motherhood has taught me the most. 

And by “taught,” I mean I had to adapt to survive. I struggle with anxiety and depression and motherhood really wears you down so those struggles simmer beneath the surface. More often than not they bubble over, and if I’m not quick to identify the issue and stop myself from spiraling they will consume me. 

I’m in a season right now of learning and applying my own self-coaching mechanisms, and while they apply to any human who needs them they will be extremely beneficial to new leaders (especially if you struggle with anxiety as well)!

leaders learning self-coaching joy to lead academy

What is Self-Coaching, Anyway?

Self-coaching is the ability to practice self-awareness, self-study, and self-reflection. The goal of self-coaching is to understand your current situation, identify your greatest goals, map out a path forward toward your desired state, and commit to a course of action that you then take. 

Why is Self-Coaching Useful for Leaders?

Like coaching a team member, self-coaching helps us stay in alignment with our ultimate goals and desired state. It’s a way to remain in control of your actions and behaviors to ensure they’re aligned with what you want to accomplish. 

Personally, I use self-coaching when I experience depressive episodes or panic attacks. I’m learning to observe and be aware of when they’re occurring, identify the non-truths I’m believing in the moment, identify that this is not my desired state, and take a course of action to alter the experience. 

It’s tough, I’m not going to lie about that. But I know that what my body and mind need are a focused distraction, like a project. I love baking, painting, or accomplishing a small, tedious task to help me step out of these attacks.

Leaders can use self-coaching to identify areas of weakness, struggle, or blind spots. Practicing awareness and goal-alignment will help new leaders become more self-observant and focused on becoming the best leader they can be. 

Using the GROW Model for Self-Coaching & Leadership Anxiety

I’ve talked in depth about the GROW coaching model before, and I teach it inside the Joy to Lead Academy course for entrepreneurs building their first teams. 

The GROW coaching model is broken down into steps:

  • Goal: What is your ultimate goal? What does success look like for you in this situation, project, or endeavor?
  • Reality: What is your current situation? What’s currently happening?
  • Options: Name ALL the paths forward you could take. Get creative, leave no stone unturned. 
  • Will: Identify the one path you will commit to taking right away. Define your steps forward clearly. 

As a self-coaching tool, I use the GROW model to ask myself the following questions:

  • What do I really want right now?
  • But where am I at right now?
  • What can I do to get where I want to go?
  • How can I take a step forward right now?

It’s simple and straightforward, and feel free to tailor those questions to however feels most natural to you!

Using Self-Coaching Tools to Help with Leadership Anxiety

Self-coaching may feel daunting at first, but here are some tactics you can use to begin self-observation and goal setting. 

First, Acknowledge Your Leadership Anxiety

The first step in dealing with leadership anxiety is acknowledging it. It’s normal and, to some extent, even necessary. It means you care. Embrace your vulnerability. This vulnerability can connect you better with your team and foster an environment of trust and empathy.

Practice Mindfulness

Leadership anxiety often stems from worrying about the future or dwelling on past mistakes. Mindfulness – being present in the moment – can help. Start with simple deep-breathing exercises, meditations, or mindful walks. Regular mindfulness practice can ground you in the present, reducing anxiety.

Journaling for Leaders

A huge component of my mental health practice is journaling, and this is a practice that has massive benefits for leaders, too. Journaling helps us identify loops, or patterns of thinking, feeling, and believing that our brains love to stay within. Loops are protective, but not always helpful. I love how journaling helps me confront myself so I can make positive changes in my life. 

Personality Tests for Leaders

I also love to use personality tests when appropriate to help me explore different facets of my behaviors and tendencies. It’s important to remember that personality tests do not define you, nor are they even definite or complete in their assessments. Use them as a tool, and a tool only, for self-study. 

Create a Leadership Development Plan

Then, create a self-development plan! Once you’ve observed, explored, and practiced self-coaching, a self-development plan will help you put some goals to paper. A self-development plan will help you identify growth areas you want to pursue in this season and map out a course of action. This will greatly help you when you practice self-coaching in your leadership role!

Understand Your Unique Leadership Style

And lastly, map out your leadership style and explore the inner workings of who you are as a leader. Map out your leadership strengths, your communication style, your skills as a leader, and learn to practice your leadership style. 

Not every leadership style will fit you. And that’s okay. Leadership comes in many flavors. You might be more of a democratic leader, a servant leader, or a transformational leader. Do some soul-searching to understand your natural style. Embrace it and build on your strengths to alleviate your leadership anxiety.

Set Clear Goals

Clear, achievable goals can help focus your energy and ease leadership anxiety. Understand what you want to achieve as a leader, and break these targets down into manageable steps. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, to bolster your confidence.

Find a Mentor or Coach

While this blog focuses on self-coaching, the value of an experienced mentor or coach cannot be underestimated. They’ve navigated the turbulent seas of leadership anxiety before and can provide invaluable guidance.

Prioritize Self-Care

A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, enough sleep, and relaxation are crucial for mental well-being. Don’t neglect self-care in the hustle of leadership. It’s a key aspect of managing leadership anxiety.

Practice Positive Affirmations

Your inner dialogue significantly affects your leadership anxiety. Practice positive affirmations – positive statements that can help you challenge and overcome self-doubt. Phrases like, “I am capable, I am growing, and I am becoming a great leader,” can work wonders!

Embrace a Learning Mindset

Remember, every great leader started somewhere. It’s okay to make mistakes; what matters is that you learn from them. Adopt a growth mindset, viewing challenges as opportunities to learn, and this will help you cope with leadership anxiety.

You CAN Do This!

Stepping into the leadership role might feel daunting, but remember, you’re not alone. With these self-coaching tactics, a supportive network, and a dash of self-belief, you’re equipped to navigate the turbulent waters of leadership anxiety. Embrace the journey and remember, experiencing anxiety is not a sign of weakness, but evidence that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone towards growth. So take a deep breath, and step forward with confidence!

I'm Kaylan, leadership educator, podcaster & speaker

What are you searching for?

Reading suggestions

Crafting a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

Job Postings that Attract Top Talent

Mapping Your Leadership Style