True leaders know how powerful a certain level of stress can be to keep you focused, to make you competitive, and to encourage action. Anytime you have to give a big presentation or talk to an important client, if you are not at least a little nervous, you won’t give it your best.
Nevertheless, stress can also be lethal, especially in today’s vile economic reality, where every professional is menaced by endless hours, layoffs, and anxiety about what may come next.
The best and most experienced leaders acknowledge that dealing with leadership stress has to do with 6 essential factors, and these are the way out, now more than ever:
It is crucial to acknowledge that no matter how bad the circumstances, or how big your challenge is, there are others in a worse situation who are probably dealing with it much better than you are.
Thousands of managers have to talk to their staff about costs reductions, possible dismissals, and new ways to make profit; it is a stressful speech, and many need to calm down afterwards, at least James Mitchum had to.
James is an executive director at a major communications’ firm, and after delivering the dreaded speech he decided to go out for lunch at a nearby restaurant to unwind. While he was there, he noticed the cashier was on a wheelchair, and he also saw a blind customer trying to order a meal. Immediately he realized his problem would disappear, theirs wouldn’t. Nevertheless, they looked happy, optimistic, and energized. Basically, their attitude was far more inspiring and helpful than his at that moment and he was grateful for the lesson.
2. Staying fit
Exercise is crucial for a leader’s success. Several studies have proven that leaders who exercise are more effective and deal much better with stress.
Exercise helps keep emotions under control, and it relaxes and energizes you. We know it is not easy to fit an exercise schedule when you are a busy executive, however, you must find the way. Everyone around you and you yourself will be thankful.
Stress manifests when you hold on to too much inside, and leaders often feel they have to manage certain things by themselves… Don’t! Open up, it will make you appear vulnerable in a good way and authentic, and that’s what draws people to a leader.
Releasing the load will make you feel liberated, and the more your staff knows about a serious situation, the more in control they will feel.
4. Accepting feedback and criticism
The better you acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses, the easier it will be to remain calm. The more you welcome ideas and opportunities, the more powerful you will feel. However, this means you have to ask people to be honest with you, and you have to be ready to accept what they say even if you don’t like it. Allowing for this will make you smarter, and will diminish everyone’s stress because they know they can speak and you will listen.
5. Reorganizing your life
Get organized and define your priorities, both professionally and personally. It is very common to add stress to your life by getting ready for a meeting in the last minute or by not sharing crucial information in a timely manner, and this happens when you are too worried about competition and secondary assignments.
Most people live their lives in a very busy but undisciplined way. In many cases, we only care about doing things non-stop, without ever considering stopping certain things. Successful leaders make it a habit to select one unproductive thing that wastes their time daily and stop doing it right away. They do the same the next day, and in the process, liberate themselves from stress.
6. Recharging batteries
Take time to slow down. Working long hours without stop won’t make you more productive, much to the contrary, it will jeopardize your performance.
When you take time to recharge, you are able to do more in less time. Professional athletes know it very well: overdo it and you will get burned out.
Spend time with your family and friends, read good books, go out and have fun, or take a trip. Your company won’t disappear because you take some days off, and you will boost your capacity to solve difficult situations.