Why an anxious leader might be the best thing for your organization

There are two types of leaders, and an anxious leader is the superior breed, Cass Sunstein, JD, said during an interview with the Washington Post.

Despite the potentially negative connotations of an anxious person, anxious leaders are more dependable, agile and better planners than complacent leaders, the other type of leader, according to Mr. Sunstein, a legal scholar at Harvard, author of numerous books and former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

"There is no question that the anxious leader is much better than the complacent leader," said Mr. Sunstein. "The anxious leader is able to redirect energies, listen to information from employees and won't continue the course of action if it's failing. The anxious leader also will be flexible and inventive, and will foresee things that could go wrong. There's a saying that goes, 'If you make a plan, God laughs. If you make two plans, God smiles.' The anxious leaders are making two plans."

On the other hand, complacent leaders — though demonstrative of positive personality traits, such as being optimistic, upbeat and confident — risks enacting a sense of infallibility.

Mr. Sunstein named Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the President for Economic Policy, as a prime example of an anxious leader. After the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov in 2013, President Barack Obama brought in Mr. Zients to help fix the issues.

"I'm sure he was always thinking about what could go wrong," Mr. Sunstein told the Washington Post. And more specifically, saying, 'This could be a catastrophe. If that's a risk, then what will we do about it?'"

According to Mr. Sunstein a productive anxiety is not the same as being "miserable and wailing," rather it is the understanding that people "will be held accountable if things do not go right."

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