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Leaders Under Stress

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Leading people can be very stressful, especially when you’re dealing with stress in your own life. And leading through a time of crisis elevates that stress level to the point where it may feel unmanageable. We’ve all seen the Capital One commercial, “What’s in your wallet?” As a leader, what do you have within you that you can always count on, especially during times of crisis? Here are two things to remember when it feels like you have more than you can handle:

KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE. When everyone is rattled, people are looking to you for security, guidance, care, help, hope, and answers. Make sure you find that place, whether it’s in your office, a special coffee shop, on a hiking trail, or on a rooftop somewhere, that you can go to get quiet and recharge. Take those deep breaths, be strategic, get prepared, and/or get organized. Do what you need to do to have that composure to be cool, calm, collected, and in control. I like what leadership expert John C. Maxwell says, “If I prepare well today, I won’t have to repair tomorrow.”

REGROUP. I worked in a restaurant years ago and it opened on the hottest day of the year, the AC went out, the plumbing backed up, and the long line of people were, let’s say, impatient. I was ringing someone up with their tab and looked over to the see the manager, who was preparing all the food, frozen in her stance. I walked over to her and asked her what was wrong, and she replied with, “I can’t remember how to make this sandwich.” Inside, I thought, “Oh no! This is not good.” I stood with her and talked her through the sandwich-making process. Since the manager was my 80-year-old mother, I was very concerned. Dr. Earl Henslin, who wrote the book, This is Your Brain on Joy, says, “When stressed, seventy percent of our non-dominant brain shuts down, diminishing our senses, and our ability to retain and remember information. Studies have shown that months of exposure to stress can permanently destroy neurons in your brain which affects memory, impulse control, reasoning, and learning.” My mother was definitely under lots of stress. After we closed, I sat down with her, pushed the menu across the table to her and said, “We need to regroup.” The menu selection was way too big for her to handle, and the crises of the day were too much.

Many times, as a leader, we need to pause and reflect to regain composure and regroup to lead the people that count on us so much.

Manage your stress,


The Attitude Adjuster

John Maxwell Leadership Trainer

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