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All leaders have at least one thing in common: stress.

Brutal schedules, increasing demands, and unrelenting competition all contribute to a stressed out crop of leaders.

In fact, leadership author Henry L. Thompson argues that stress is often the real culprit behind leadership failure. In his book, The Stress Effect, he stated when leaders’ stress levels become elevated – whether in the boardroom or on the front line of the manufacturing process – their ability to make smart decisions is severely impaired.

So, apparently stress is a very real feeling that could become toxic to your career.

When someone is stressed they don’t treat themselves or others very well, they have a quick temper at work or home and become impatient at the smallest details.
And if a leader is stressed out, guess what? It can infect the entire company. No matter how hard a leader tries to hide his or her own emotions, employees will pick up on their boss’ behavior. Leaders do set an example for the workplace, so your attitude and stress levels are actually contagious to your employees. Yep, that’s just another thing to stress out about.

Maybe leaders are so used to being stressed out that they believe it’s a normal condition. To be fair, there are those that say some level of stress is actually a good thing, and it does serve a purpose. But an overabundance of stress is a different story.

Overstressed leaders will get overwhelmed in crisis situations and fail to identify the core issues of the problem. Emotional or unmeasured reactions may actually provoke additional problems, along with sending the message to direct reports that conflicts should be avoided or denied.

An inability to cope with stress will not only cause personal unhappiness, it can also make you ineffective as a leader. While it’s pretty difficult to completely eliminate stress from your life, you can take action to minimize stress. Many times, stress is not only self-induced but is unnecessary.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Instead of getting frustrated when things don’t go as planned, expect change, ambiguity, and frustration at least part of the time. This is normal. Develop your sense of humor; learn not to take yourself too seriously.


  • Acknowledge that you are not really in control, as much as you would like to be, and you do not need to be in control of all situations. Consider a past change that you effectively managed and identify steps you took in that situation that you can try here. Realize that maintaining control in an environment of rapid change is different from maintaining control in a static situation.
  • Try these stress reducing techniques: learn and apply deep breathing when you are stressed; take a break to listen to relaxing music on your iPod or on Spotify; go for a walk outside; exercise regularly; eat regular meals.
  • You need to be able to persevere during the hard times if you are convinced you are on the right course. Before you make a big change: consult with other managers about the decision and analyze what impact the change will have on the organization (both positive and negative).
  • Think positively. Instead of telling yourself a task is impossible, tell yourself that you have reached a momentary impasse and that a solution does exist and will eventually come to you.


What tips do you have to help reduce stress?