Pressure is inevitable, and necessary, in the life of a leader. Stress, on the other hand, can cause tremendous damage.
Every leader knows that pressure is an energy that generates actions and results. Internal pressure is that innate inner drive that causes a leader to want to accomplish great things; to improve the fortunes of a cause or organization. External pressure can galvanize a leader to “up their game” and to solve complex problems.
But stress is different.
Stress occurs when those pressures exceed the capacity of a leader for an extended period of time. The result can take its toll on the leader emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually.
There is a distinct and discernable line between pressure and stress. And it’s the job of the leader to recognize that line and to manage it. And one of the best ways to do that is to regularly ask yourself these questions…
1. Are my current challenges energizing me, or draining me?
Leadership is all about tackling problems. If you’re operating within your capacity, those challenges will fill you with a certain energy that can be quite exhilarating. But if instead those challenges find you shrinking back and feeling beaten up, you may have crossed the stress line.
2. If I’ve crossed the stress line, is this temporary or permanent?
Crossing the stress line is manageable for a season. But if this becomes part of an ongoing pattern, you will need to make some changes.
3. Can I increase my leadership capacity?
Stress can result from an insufficiency in skills, resources or expertise. Sometimes the stress line is a signal that it’s time to ratchet up your leadership horsepower.
4. Am I in the right role?
Ultimately, the stress line can be an indicator that your assignment is not a good fit for your leadership. Have the courage to ask, “Should I be passing the leadership baton to another leader?”
Here’s the point. Pressure is not the enemy of effective leadership. Leaders thrive under pressure. But stress is a different animal. And when you’ve crossed the stress line it can take a serious toll.
So learn to recognize the stress line.
And for the sake of your leadership, learn not to cross it.