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(c) Jason Jeffery

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Learn relaxed concern

The job of a leader is hard. There’s lots going on, multiple things happening at once, many things to prepare simultaneously, deadlines, problems, set-backs, celebrations. Lots to stress about and even more to worry about. And it’s almost common knowledge that both stress and worry are unhealthy states of being. Particularly if they’re places you spend most of your time in, and a lot of leaders spend a lot of time being either stressed or worried. But precisely because the negative effects of stress and worry are so widely known, you experiencing them just gives you something else to stress and worry about. And the cycle continues.

But what makes stress and worry even worse is that they are a waste of time. They’re sideways energy. But at the same time, being so laid back to the point of not caring what happens is equally unhelpful. Being quasi-neurotic is unhelpful. Being overly nonchalant is unhelpful. There needs to be a middle road.

Being concerned is a good thing; what you’re involved in is important and you’re responsible and it needs to get done. Being relaxed is a good thing; you think clearer, you treat people how they deserve to be treated, you don’t blow out your adrenal glands.

The art comes at being both at the same time. Not just relaxed and not just concerned, but a relaxed concern. Being concerned about deadlines, problems and setbacks without losing your cool, panicking or paralyzing and doing nothing. Being relaxed about deadlines, problems and setbacks without being lazy, disinterested or procrastinating. But instead having a relaxed concern.

There’s a time for worry and stress and pushing for things to be done quickly. Of course that’s true. But it probably shouldn’t be the default gear that you work in. Relaxing and taking it easy is a good thing and there is definitely a time for it. But it probably shouldn’t be the default gear that you work in.

Instead we need to find a third way that takes the best from both of these states, a third way that we can aim for as our default position unless we encounter extraordinary circumstances. Learning and developing a relaxed concern.