Pat has a problem that she does not acknowledge. Everyone else can see it, but not Pat. In fact, when asked about this issue, she replies that it is part of the job and not impacting her leadership effectiveness.
Pat’s problem is stress. More and more, extreme levels of stress are accepted as a normal requirement of a leader’s job. Many actually consider this constant mental pressure to be a badge of honor.
This bravado about stress means that leaders often won’t address it as the serious situation it is. A 2007 Center for Creative Leadership Research White Paper titled The Stress of Leadership states:
Eighty-eight percent of leaders told us that work is a primary source of stress in their lives and that having a leadership role increases the level of stress (75 percent agreement). Further, about 65 percent of the sample believes that their stress level is higher than it was five years ago.
Pat may be cavalier about today’s stress. However, if her stress level increases over time, she may experience Catastrophic Leadership Failure, as described by Dr. Henry L. Thompson in his article, Catastrophic Leadership Failure™: An Overview:
Cognitive ability (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EI) abilities are required for successful leader performance—at all levels. Recent findings combined with my experience and research on leadership, stress, IQ and EI over the last 25 years indicate that when a leader’s stress level is sufficiently elevated— whether on the front line of a manufacturing process, in the emergency room, the Boardroom or on the battlefield—his/her ability to fully and effectively use IQ and EI in tandem to make timely and effective decisions is significantly impaired. This impairment often leads to catastrophic results.
Do you need to get real about stress and its effects? Are you skeptical that there is a solution to stress, given the intense demands on leaders?
We will be writing more about stress management in upcoming posts. In the meantime, check out this for some tips to get you started on your journey to a more calm existence.
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It’s about time that we admit: we are too busy, too tired, and not having much fun. As one talk show host would ask us, “How’s this working for you?” If it isn’t, then now is the time to focus on what is important to you.
A study tells us that 85 percent of all women say they “frequently feel tired,” and 59 percent “feel tired all the time.” Women are exhausted and readily admit that exhaustion is taking a toll on their health. New statistics show that more women are experiencing more serious heart problems than ever before, and the traditional gap between men and women’s life expectancies is narrowing. That’s not encouraging news!
If you are stressed at work and heading toward “burnout,” check out our new book at: http://www.WomenandTime.com
Perhaps the issue is more about perspective than reality. I have often shared with others the idea that, as intelligent human beings, we are in control of our time, calendar, schedule, choices, etc. In my experience, stress is often an indicator that we have given “the outside” (whether that’s our boss, our spouse/children/siblings/parents, our staff, our friends, etc.) some level of control over our lives and our time. An external locus of control is designed to “stress us out” as we experience others’ requests for our time, energy, money, etc. as demands we must meet. To that I say “hooey”!
In a world where it’s “oh, so chic” to say “I’m soooooo busy” it can be difficult to moderate/mitigate our behavior and perspective to one of centeredness and calm. If we can manage to find the space (both physical and mental) where we can relax and engage our creativity, EI and IQ, then we will release the shackles of the badge of “busyness and stress” and find the place where effectiveness reigns and true leadership can flourish.
One of the significant pulls I feel lately is to eliminate good commitments so that I can do the FEW great commitments that give me life rather than drain it away. Great post to spark a needed conversation.