Date: July 4, 2000
Publication: ST. Louis Post-Dispatch
Edition: Five Star Lift
There is no magic pill we can take, book we can read, or seminar we can attend that will instantly transform us into the greatest business leaders of all time. But according to Robert Rosen, chairman and CEO of Healthy Companies International, we all have something inside that, once harnessed, will make the difference between success and significance. It makes our palms sweat, our heads ache and our hearts pound. It's anxiety. And according to Rosen's new book, "Just Enough Anxiety," it's the hidden driver of success. You just have to know how to steer it.
Rosen calls anxiety an energy that propels us forward. And, if it is controlled in ourselves and for those who work with us, it is the most important quality a leader can possess. Having just enough prepares you for change and challenges that it brings.
Change is what business is about. It keeps companies going and businesses viable. Good leaders, says Rosen, understand this. Even though change might make them feel uneasy, they know that anxiety can be directed into productive and creative energy.
Great leadership, Rosen believes, is all about mastering the "human side of business." Those leaders who rise to the top are the ones who know the level of anxiety their organization can handle it and still be able to mobilize human energy to get the job done.
The balance between too much and too little is delicate. Too much gives negative thinking overwhelming power and prompts us to attack instead of to embrace change. Too little apprehension and we reject change altogether. It is here where the status quo lives with its neighbors: boredom and stagnation.
In the middle is "just enough" - where Rosen says we maintain our "balance in the midst of opposing forces." He likens it to a champion speed skater rounding a curve. Leaning in too far will cause even the best Olympian to fall. Not cutting the corner close enough means others will pass the skater by. But an athlete with the right mix of balance, speed and angle to the ice wins the gold every time.
Leaders with "just enough" find their balance in this yin and yang of uneasiness. They are not idealistic or cynical. Instead, they are optimistic and realistic. They find a middle ground between complacency and carelessness with impatient constructiveness. When others with too little anxiety are viewed as arrogant and those with too much are seen as self-doubting, the "just enough" leader conveys a humble, yet confident, persona.
How do you become a leader with just enough anxiety? In his book, Rosen first identifies different types of leaders, how others see them and how their actions can have an impact on their organizations. He also quizzes readers on the anxiety level of their organization. From there, he serves as a guide down a path toward balancing anxiety through knowing oneself, becoming comfortable with uncertainty, acknowledging anxiety, refusing to exaggerate uneasiness and allowing the ability to react to all emotions.
President John Quincy Adams once said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." Robert Rosen says our actions can do all these things if supported with the dynamic energy that just the right amount of tension provides.
I recommend "Just Enough Anxiety" for any leader looking for an edge. In its pages, you might just find the perfect balance for you and your business.
'Just Enough Anxiety: The Hidden Driver of Business Success'
By Robert H. Rosen
Penguin Group, $24.95
BENJAMIN OLA. AKANDE IS DEAN OF WEBSTER UNIVERSITY'S SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY. AN AUDIO INTERVIEW BETWEEN DR. AKANDE AND ROBERT ROSEN IS AVAILABLE ON WEBSTER'S ONLINE BIZTALK BOOK CLUB WEBSITE: WWW.WEBSTER.EDU/SBT/BOOKCLUB.