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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Photo courtesy of stock.xchg.