The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears Into Your Leadership Superpower
Harvard Business Review
Press, 232 pp., $30
By Morra Aarons-Mele
If you're one of the many professionals and leaders who publicly or privately acknowledge the battle that wages inside of you due to anxiety (or one of its many close relatives), you are in good company. In The Anxious Achiever, Aarons-Mele references a 2021 Mind Share Partners, SAP, and Qualtrics survey that found "executive and C-level respondents were 82 percent and 78 percent more likely, respectfully, to report at least one mental health symptom than managers and individual contributors." That helps set the stage and gives the reader permission to experience the personal and potentially emotional journey you will take while thumbing the pages of this book.
Aarons-Mele starts by giving you comfort in knowing you're not alone. Given vulnerability has risen as a leadership trait during the past decade, it's clear that many leaders hailed as industry giants battle with anxiety on a daily basis. You will face your past through reflection and guided activities as the author highlights the double-edged sword anxiety can wield in our personal and professional lives.
For every negative impact of anxiety, there are positive impacts that you, as a leader, can harness by managing your anxiety through a focus on therapy, reflection, and self-awareness. The book isn't intended to be a cure-all for anxiety—and, as you read on, you'll learn that the goal is to manage your specific anxiety, triggers, and reactions. The Anxious Achiever gives you permission to call out your past and separate the negatives of anxiety from all the other wonderful elements of what makes you the great person you are.
Aarons-Mele presents some of the common ways anxiety manifests itself. Through an increased ability to manage your reactions, you can harness the positive powers that anxiety has hidden.
If you're skeptical of a positive side to anxiety, that's fair. But Aarons-Mele gently pulls back the layers of anxiety to reveal "superpowers" just below the surface. With proper control of your reactions to anxiety, you'll gain access to how anxiety has given you a heightened sense of awareness, empathy, and the ability to connect with others. You can then channel those and other superpowers into making yourself a sought-after leader—not for your perfection, but for your ability to be human.