Leading with Confidence: Overcoming Anxiety as a Successful Woman in Leadership

Are you a successful woman in leadership struggling with anxiety? You’re not alone.  

Anxiety is a pervasive issue in the workplace, and it’s especially prevalent among women in leadership positions. According to a study conducted by the American Institute of Stress, 80% of workers report feeling stressed while on the job, and nearly half of them admit to needing help managing their stress.  In particular, women report higher levels of stress and anxiety compared to their male counterparts. This can be attributed to several factors, including gender bias, discrimination, and societal pressures.  

For women in leadership, managing anxiety can be a daunting challenge that impacts their lives both personally and professionally, making it vitally important to recognise the impact that anxiety can have on our lives and those around us, and to develop strategies for managing it.

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between anxiety, leadership, and mental health, and provide practical tips for overcoming anxiety and leading with confidence.

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” — Jodi Picoult

Anxiety and Leadership

Anxiety is a common experience for many people, especially in high-pressure environments like the workplace. For women in leadership roles, anxiety can be particularly challenging, as they navigate the expectations and pressures of their role while also dealing with the unique challenges that come with being a woman in a male-dominated field.

However, anxiety can also be a powerful motivator, driving us to perform at our best and pushing us to strive for excellence. The key is to find a balance between healthy anxiety that motivates us and unhealthy anxiety that holds us back.

“The way you tell your story to yourself matters.” — Amy Cuddy

Dealing with Anxiety

If you’re struggling with anxiety, there are a number of strategies you can use to manage it and reduce its impact on your life. Here are a few tips to get started:

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and increasing resilience. Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and cultivate a sense of calm and awareness.

Exercise regularly: Exercise is a natural stress reliever and can help to reduce anxiety. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, whether it’s going for a walk, hitting the gym, or trying a new workout class.  Mental “Fitness” can lead to Mental Health.

Seek support: Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or a professional if you’re struggling with anxiety. Talking about your experiences and feelings can help you to feel less alone and more empowered to manage your anxiety.

“Surrender to what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” — Sonia Ricotti


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Leading with Confidence

As a successful woman in leadership, it’s important to cultivate a sense of confidence and self-assurance, which in turn can also help you keep anxious thoughts that don’t serve you at bay. Here are a few tips for leading with confidence:

Embrace your strengths: Identify your strengths and use them to your advantage. This can help you to feel more confident and competent in your role.

Take risks: Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks and step outside your comfort zone. This can help you to grow and develop as a leader.

Cultivate a growth mindset: A growth mindset is the belief that you can learn and grow over time. Embrace this mindset and view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning.

There are many examples of women who have overcome anxiety to become successful leaders in their industries.  One such example is Marillyn Hewson, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest defence contractors.

Hewson has spoken openly about her struggles with anxiety, which she has experienced throughout her career. Despite this, she has risen to the top of her field, becoming the first woman to lead Lockheed Martin in 2013.

In interviews, Hewson has credited her success to a combination of factors, including hard work, perseverance, and seeking help when needed. She has also emphasised the importance of mental health, both for herself and for her employees.

Through her example, Hewson has shown that it’s possible to overcome anxiety and thrive as a leader. Her story serves as an inspiration to women and men alike, showing that with the right mindset and support, anyone can achieve their goals to become an effective and inspiring leader. 

To sum it all up, anxiety can be a challenging experience for women in leadership, no doubt about it, but it doesn’t have to hold you back.  By practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, and seeking support, you can manage your anxiety and lead with confidence. Remember to embrace your strengths, take risks, and cultivate a growth mindset, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals and making a positive impact in your organisation and community, and the world as a whole. 

  • American Institute of Stress. (n.d.). Workplace Stress. Retrieved from https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/
  • Marillyn Hewson, former CEO of Lockheed Martin. (2020, January 16). “Women in Leadership: A Conversation with Marillyn Hewson.” Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/women-in-leadership-a-conversation-with-marillyn-hewson
  • Koczwara, A. (2021, April 13). The Science-Backed Benefits of Mindfulness. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-mindfulness/

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By Sonia McDonald – CEO Of LeadershipHQ And Outstanding Leadership Awards, Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO, Mum And Award Winning Author.

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Sonia is passionate about her voice. When Sonia speaks, everyone in the room feels like she is having a conversation with them as her audience will feel as if they are the only one in the room. She speaks from the heart. She is brave. She wants everyone to be brave. She is an impactful and motivational leadership expert and speaker that creates a life-changing experience. People call Sonia sassy, inspirational, real and a speaker who leaves a lasting impression. Her high-energy, authenticity and humour combined with actionable and practical advice, empowers her audience and provides them with great drive and confidence to take courageous actions and inspire great leadership in all aspects of their lives.

She is also the founder of LeadershipHQ and is a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.

Through her leadership advisory and coaching work at LeadershipHQ, and founding the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Sonia is internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and culture, organisational development, neuroscience, kindness, and courage.

As a full-time single parent, Sonia has a passion for women in business and teenage mental health. Sonia travels and speaks across Australia and Globe, and she is on a mission to building a world of great leaders and leadership.

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