Experts in the Media

Craig Johns – Flying Solo

CEO & Managing Partner of Speakers Institute Corporate | High Performance Leadership Expert

Do you have ‘Weight of the World’ syndrome?

Have you ever felt the weight of the world on your shoulders so heavy that it almost suffocates you? Most small business owners and CEOs have. You feel paralysed by the burden, exhausted by a never-ending to-do list and overwhelmed by pressure and responsibility. It feels simultaneously like the energy is being sucked out of you and your feet are being swept out from underneath you. You’re suffering from ‘Weight of the World’ syndrome, writes Craig Johns, leadership and workplace relations expert.

Much of this weight has to do with expectations we place on ourselves and perceived responsibilities to other people, whether that’s our employees, suppliers or family.

If you’re a leader or business owner, you probably have internal expectations which are completely unrealistic. You also might have a fear of failing, fear of being found out (hello imposter syndrome), fear of letting the team/company down and a huge fear of disappointing people.

Carrying the weight of the world can overwhelm even the most experienced leaders.

Weight of the world syndrome

As Uncle Ben famously articulated in the 2002 movie, The Amazing Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Taking on a leadership role or starting a business is like having a new baby. You can’t take your eyes off them, you’re sensitive to everything and it’s like nothing else in the world matters.

As a parent, it’s your job to keep the baby alive and well and that’s exactly the same as leading a company, coaching a team or guiding a community – if you take your finger off the pulse it might stop. The question is how much pressure does your finger really need to apply?

After observing both parents and leaders, I believe there’s three common themes …

1. Control – treat leadership like a third baby

When you see a parent with their first-born child, they tend to focus their entire attention on the child, spending all of their time protecting them from hurting themselves. They try and do everything perfectly, and are constantly worrying about the future.

The problem is as a leader, this level of control will eventually restrict you, inhibit growth and become overbearing for your team members.

Author Ben Horowitz, once said, “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby … I woke up every two hours and cried.”

Have you been in a leadership role when every aspect of the company or team you are leading consumes your mind 24/7 and begins to weigh you down or hold you back?

As people mature into leadership roles, we tend to see a shift in how they lead and what consumes their mind. They start to relinquish control and notice their company or team starts to perform better. High performing leaders understand what’s important, where to focus their attention and what they can let go of.

As a leader you must treat your company or team like it’s your third baby, not your first.

By the time a parent has their third baby they’re more relaxed, allowing the baby to explore and learn at their own pace, they spend less time worrying, focus only on what’s really important and are better able to manage their time.

2. Failure – it’s not about adding more weight

If you’ve ever been to a gym or watched weightlifting on TV, you’ll know what happens when you add too much weight to a squat bar, dumbbell or exercise machine.

At some point you fail.

It makes sense then that adding more tasks, expectations or responsibilities will at some point will lead to failure as a leader. And when it comes to carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, you actually have control over how heavy the weight is.

There’s never a time where there’s no weight, and just like going to the gym, you always need some weight to grow and perform better. But you have full control over the expectations you set yourself, how many tasks you take on, how you manage your energy and where you focus your attention.

3. Responsibility – it’s shared

To lead well, it’s important to know how much control you need and where to relinquish control so your team or company can thrive. Focus on what’s important and where to let go.

It’s your responsibility to share the responsibility among your team. Be present and attentive to how much weight you’ve applied and when it’s a good idea to remove some weight or move it to someone else’s shoulders.

As a leader, it’s important that you manage your energy, expectations and emotions to ensure the whole team rises rather than falls with the weight of responsibility.

Lightening the weight of the world on your shoulders really comes down to collaboration, teamwork and relinquishing control.

So, what’s the first thing you’ll let go of?