Leadership Stress and Your Emotional Health

Emotional-Health-Leadership-StressEveryone pays attention to the issues of emotional health when the stress gets so bad it starts to eat people up. It’s often only after the fact, when emotions interfere with their performance or someone becomes burned out.

Every leadership position faces stress. It comes with the territory. Not all of it is bad. Business people obtain as much satisfaction from professional accomplishment as athletes do from reaching a personal best. It’s fun to give your best, especially when it leads to success.

Good stress, called eustress, strengthens our mental and physical abilities and doesn’t wear us down. But even eustress requires reasonable care and mental conditioning.

I wrote about this in my last post. When your responses to stress can be identified, the effect they have on your leadership role becomes clearer. For example, anxiety not only inhibits decisions but shows your people an unreliable trait that loses their trust. Who will they count on to lead them through stormy seas? Anger causes resentment, distrust and withdrawal in your people. Their productivity suffers under these conditions, and that feeds more anger, replaying a vicious cycle.

A key to enduring under stress is to evaluate situations as objectively as possible; step back to grasp the need for rational responses, and maintain a strong, reliable composure. Emotions are important for a leader but must be balanced in healthy proportions with other traits. In Emotional Health & Leadership, the Global Leadership Foundation asserts that positive emotions, rational thought, and gut feel have a place in discernment and decision making. Find the best ratios for each instance.

Filtering out stress and negative emotions becomes easier when trials are treated as situations requiring calm rather than reflex. As I share with my coaching clients, the key is to get better at making thoughtful, constructive responses rather than automatic reactions. Taking responsibility for your responses requires forethought and conditioning to step back and think—before acting. These are all behaviors worth practicing and perfecting.

Leaders who rely on their proven abilities and strengths respond to trials with more confidence. They trust their skills and are not overly concerned about how others judge them. Do you find yourself worrying more about your reputation than fixing your organization’s problems? You might be under-confident, anticipating the worst, or taking the trial as a personal incrimination. Enduring under stress is enhanced by making your focus less about your personal welfare and more about the company’s.

Leadership Positivity

Leaders often pay more attention to problems and negative events, and it makes sense: it allows them to spot and avoid problems. But too much focus on negativity saps our energy and compromises our ability to find necessary solutions. Positivity stimulates the production of hormones that fight stress and fortifies the immune system. Check your current emotional outlook by asking yourself a few questions:

  • Are assignments seen as opportunities, or burdens?
  • Are you holding any grudges or resentments?
  • Are you spending your time seeking solutions, or blame?

The detrimental side of these questions is prompted by unhealthy emotions, caused by a negative mindset. Instead, develop your leadership positivity. Counteract the pull of negativity and the tendency to fixate on bad news. This means that as a leader, team member or friend, seize opportunities to influence outcomes by emphasizing positivity and gratitude over negative possibilities. This creates a more inviting and engaging culture, where people and their perspectives are valued.

Become an expert in your emotional state. A leader who is emotionally healthy has the most opportunity to head a healthy organization.

What do you think? How do you manage stress? Do you practice leadership positivity? I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at 704-827-4474; let’s talk. And as always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

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