Good Leaders Rise Above Stressful Situations

As a leader, you will be stressed – frequently, if not daily. I have never been in a leadership role that did not routinely stress me. Situations arise. People need answers. High-stake decisions need to be made. People’s personal lives, and their associated challenges, add additional stress. All of this stress can be upsetting and tiring. What is a leader to do?

Good leaders challenge themselves to rise above the stress, make thoughtful decisions. and seek win-win outcomes. It took me quite some time to understand that others would watch my responses and follow suit. If I am calm and seek a win-win solution, then they will also. If I let the stress get to me, they too will let their behaviors spiral out of control and do things that are not helpful. My demeanor and behavior will set the tone and direction of what comes next. My team, family, and community need me at my best to deal with the natural and never-ending stress that is a part of our modern-day lives.

So, how do I show up in a way that helps others? This is a very specific question I ask myself when I first notice a situation is getting difficult and stressful. I can notice my own reactions to the situation and if I am getting stressed, so are they. It is then that my strategies must kick into high gear. Otherwise, my reactionary brain will respond with fight or flight – neither of which is helpful in both addressing our problems and preserving relationships. As a leader, I work for the long-term. I need a good solution today and a good set of relationships for the future. One without the other is not good enough for me. We can be tempted to seek a good solution today – and sacrifice the relationship. That is a bad move. We will need to have good relationships to thrive in the future. That is why I must rise above my knee-jerk reactions.

The first thing I do each day, as a leader, is prepare myself for my day. I try to see where the stress will be so I can come to the table calm and with some first steps toward a win-win solution. I also need to reconnect with my mission, priorities, and what I am grateful for each day. It is easy to get pulled away from who I am if I do not center myself each morning. Building a strong morning routine is essential to being your best self each day.

Second, when a stressful situation arises, I work to get myself and others out of reactive thinking. In reactive thinking we have binary choices. We can either fight or flee. We can have a yes or no. I can win or they can win. Problem-solving mode is where I want to be. When you ask people to develop potential solutions that are win-win, they can no longer just offer binary answers. Asking for solutions and offering potential ideas helps people shift from reactionary, and often destructive behaviors, to helpful and relationship-building behaviors. When this happens, we can be more creative and more open to different solutions. For it to work, I often must lead the way forward.

Every work environment can get stressful. As leaders, it is our job to be our best selves in these situations. When we start our day grounded and help our teams move to solution finding and relationship building, we become the leaders we are called to be.