In the spirit of Halloween, I want to address a topic that can be a bit scary for some people: stress in leadership. In recent years, the working world has become more open about mental wellness, but leaders are generally left out of the conversation. Leaders in any field can become so committed to their organizational mission that they forget to care for themselves.
Before we dive into the cure, let’s take a look at some frightening statistics about workplace stress:
- 88 percent of leaders report that work is the primary source of stress in their lives and that having a leadership role increases their levels of stress.
- 76 percent of U.S. workers said that workplace stress affected their personal relationships, including their home lives.
- U.S. businesses lose up to $300 billion every year as a result of workplace stress.
The good news is that stress is like the common cold. It’s easy to prevent if you take good care of yourself. But also like the common cold, a leader’s stress is likely to be contagious, spreading throughout an organization. (That said, it’s also important to note that, if what you’re experiencing is more than just stress, you should please consider talking to a health professional.)
To help you overcome stress and be the best leader you can be, here are my tips:
You Can Do a Lot, but You Can Never Do It All
It took me a long time to learn that leaders have to quit trying to be everything. If you’re juggling too many balls, you’re way more likely to drop one of them. You have to learn your talents and then do the things in your sweet spot. For everything else, cut out the excess weighing you down, even if it means delegating. You will get more done and have more joy doing it.
You Can’t Forget to Stop and Think
Great leaders commit real amounts of time to think and focus on the future of their businesses. And when I say “commit,” I mean it! Make a commitment to yourself to set aside an hour a week for reflection. If you are going to drive your success, you must know where you are and where you want to go. It’s easy to lose your way in a whirlwind, so step away from the storm and study your map.
You Need to Remember What Comes First
One of the biggest stress factors for leaders is finding the right balance between work and life. At my organization, Southwest Michigan First, one of our core axioms is Family First. The concept is explained in my guidebook, Preeminence, this way:
“Whatever job you do today, it will someday be done by someone else—the only exception to this is your role as a parent or family member. At some point, you will have to decide between family or work, and we make that choice easy: choose family.”
It is critical for a leader to prioritize family, while at the same time, keeping work important. We have key roles to fill in our organizations, but no role could be more important than to be present in our families. If we forget about what should come first, we’re bound to become unhappy and unproductive.
But we must remember that even a high-performance car isn’t going anywhere on an empty tank. With the right priorities and the right precautions, the stress of life and work doesn’t have to be so scary.