This is How Great Leaders Conquer Pressure

— July 31, 2019

There’s no escaping the ever-growing pressures of Leadership. The only way forward is to learn how to deal with the pressure like a boss.

I’ve worked with hundreds of leaders in organizations around the world, and the ones I admire the most are those who can get through any situation with a calm exterior.

These are the leaders who can get work done without creating panic and anxiety within their team. Regardless of the pressure, their personalities always seem to be in control, while their focus lies on solutions, rather than on placing the blame.

But one thing is for sure, no one starts off that way.

Pressure is a very real constant for every leader. From handling organizational complexities to ensuring stability and growth; from dealing with losses to adapting to change overnight – pressure causes you to cave in from all sides.

As a business leader myself, I know the feeling very well.

The collective expectations of our employees, investors and the markets can become a constant weight on our conscience. And it doesn’t stop there.

In fact, I have observed that those who are called to leadership place such high levels of pressure on themselves to achieve more, that in comparison, the external pressures seem almost trivial.

No leader is ever immune to pressure, but how we deal with the various pressures of leading is often the difference between propelling an organization towards success or contributing to its demise.

When coaching top leaders, I share with them some thoughts on effectively coping with the pressure – and even using it to their benefit. This is what I tell them:

Manage yourself before you manage others

The first thing you need to understand about the pressure of leadership is that it can either have a negative or a positive impact on your performance – depending on your state of mind.

Take the following key points into account:

  • How you respond to the stress depends on your expectations of the outcome and the perceived consequences.
  • Your perception of the stress severity will have a relative impact on your response to the stress.
  • Emotional composure will have a moderating effect on your response.

Even the most talented and competent leader can appear ineffective and incapable if they succumb to the pressure before responding to it.

Regardless of the source and nature of the pressure faced by you, it is your attitude towards it and your internal capacity to cope with it that will enable you to respond to the pressure effectively.

In other words, don’t panic.

If your inherent response to pressure is to feel fear and panic, it will start impacting your decision making and blur your professional judgements.

First thing’s first: caring for your mental health should be a priority in such times. You are a leader, you are not an invincible superhuman. You are a human being, and you do not need to keep your brave face on 24/7.

Once you’ve finished work for the day, find a great listener with whom you can vent out your stress and freely express yourself.

While I have had many helpful venting sessions with fellow business leaders, conversations with friends and family members who know nothing about your business – or business in general, can be very beneficial as well.

Now, it’s time to regain perspective.

Pressure has a way of causing you to lose perspective. Minor issues start seeming like major problems, while you might lose sight of the truly important matters at hand.

However, pressure can also be a surprisingly constructive and powerful catalyst if you learn how to use it to challenge yourself.

Once you’ve composed yourself, you must keep a clear focus on the important issues at hand. Develop clarity on what needs to be done, and define it in actionable steps. Stay connected with your team, and together, focus on finding solutions.

In the panic of pressure, you might impose unrealistic time-frames on yourself. While making decisions, you will need a clear mind to take account of the different factors such as response time.

Next, pressure-proof your team.

A leader who is unable to cope with pressure effectively adds more pressure on their team. In doing so, you may inadvertently contribute to a climate of confusion, instability and conflict.

Once you learn to excel under pressure and gain control over your emotional response to it, you can influence your team to react positively to pressure too.

How a leader responds to pressure has a direct impact on how everyone in the team responds to it. Leaders who can effectively cope with pressure have a calming effect on their employees and key stakeholders as well.

When you demonstrate confidence in your responses and your actions, you boost the confidence of those who follow you, enabling them to act suit. You pivot your team from flailing under the pressure to focusing on key priorities and getting things done.

Leaders who thrive under pressure are empowered to tackle high-pressure situations and effectively guide their company (and their team) towards greater success. Learn to use pressure as a catalyst, and you will bring out the best in yourself, as well as others around you.

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Author: Paul Keijzer

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