Posted by: chrismaser | May 13, 2010


Most budding leaders, and even some seasoned ones, still tremble inwardly with anxiety, which can be called “stage fright” or “performance anxiety,” when they anticipate standing in front of an audience. They ask themselves: What will I say? How will I say it? Will the people believe me? Will I make a fool of myself? If I do, how will I ever face them again? Will they accept me or trust me if I make a mistake?

Such anxiety usually comes from a lack of experience as a leader and/or a deep sense of uncertainty about their future with those they would lead. After all, the approbation of the public at large is normally portrayed to be exceedingly fickle. What, therefore, is a person to expect over time? Clearly, one must continually prove themself as a leader if they are to lead successfully, which requires the ability to assert themself.

Asserting themself effectively is perhaps one of the most challenging skill of leadership and communication. If you have the wrong attitude and poor verbal skills, you will likely do more harm than good.

Paradoxically, the first step in effectively asserting yourself is the realization that the problem you are experiencing is your own. It is you who are annoyed by the behavior of someone else. Therefore, instead of blaming, judging, or attacking the other person and putting that person on the defensive while you express your feelings, try the following approach:

1. State the problem, situation, or behavior that is bothering you.

2. State your feelings by explaining to the other party how the problem affects you.

3. Specify a solution by explaining what you would like to happen.

4. Describe the consequences of your request being fulfilled.

Beyond this, your efforts at assertiveness will be most effective if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Speak up immediately rather than waiting hours, days, or weeks before approaching the other party with your problem. It will be less stressful and more productive if you deal with the problem immediately rather than letting your fear inflate it to gigantic proportions, which it most certainly will do.

2. Be direct in telling the other person what your problem is. Beating around the bush usually leads to an imprecise understanding of the problem by the other party and fosters unnecessary confusion over an initially simple issue.

3. Be pleasant. A smile and friendly tone of voice will accomplish more of what you want than any kind of aggression ever will.

4. Be calm and maintain your composure, which can only help to retain your credibility and to elicit empathy from the other party. If, on the other hand, you act outraged and in so doing offend the other person, they are not likely to help you by complying with your wishes.1

Be that as it may, because leadership is a most serious business, some anxiety is probably normal, but too much can torpedo a leader’s confidence and literally incapacitate a them. One may also compare themself either with peers or with famous leaders of great stature, but they always loses when making such comparisons. Remember, each person is unique in the world and each person’s talents are therefore also unique. No one else has the gift you personally have to offer and vice versa.

The willingness to accept and deal with your anxieties, as opposed to denying them through pretenses, is a mark of courage and psychological maturity. Although your self-doubts seem normal, how you deal with them is what counts. If you lead from the heart and intuition as well as the intellect, you will find over time that self-doubt gradually disappears until, for the most part, it is no more. As self-doubt fades, your sense of authentic inner personal power will grow and emerge.

Series on Leadership Challenges:

• The Challenges Of Leadership

• Use Of Power

• Criticism In The Form Of Projection

• Criticism And Your Image

• Being And Disclosing Yourself

• The Zen Of Perfection

• Honesty With Followers

• Understanding Silence

• Understanding The Need To Be Heard

• Establishing Your Boundaries

• Dealing With The Uncommitted

• Accepting Slow Or Delayed Results

• Learning Your Limits

Related Posts:

• Meeting Fear


  1. The foregoing discussion is based largely on: Jean Marsh. Keep Your Eyes & Ears Open and Your Pen Ready! The Toastmaster 63 (1997):20-21

Text © by Chris Maser, 2010. All rights reserved.

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This article is excerpted from my 1998 book, Vision and Leadership in Sustainable Development. Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, FL. 235 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.

If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.


  1. I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog.It is easy to see that you are passionate about your writing. If only I had your writing ability I look forward to more updates and will be returning.

  2. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite certain I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

    • Janisha Jenkins, I am honored that my blog was of some value to you. I sincerely hope you have a wonderful day. With respect and cheers, Chris

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