Sometimes we view pressure as a bad thing and we do everything we can to avoid it. Fair enough. Anything for an easy life, right? However, pressure is a part of life.

Pressure can help you to fly. Or it can crush you.

Effective leaders understand that the right amount of pressure can help them to grow, that it’s an important part of who they are and who they can become.

Pressure helps us discover what’s inside of us. The challenge then is knowing how much pressure is right and how much pressure is too much. Sustained pressure will crush you, eventually. Even a pressure cooker has a valve to release some of it.

Pressure can benefit us as it may force us to stretch. To think differently. To be more creative in our problem solving. Pressure can help us to focus and achieve results, to get things done. Maybe you worked best with a little pressure – just remember those late night assignment finishes when the deadline loomed.

Low pressure can produce a lack of determination. If nobody really cares about what you are doing, there is no accountability and the pressure is off, we naturally back off, and maybe things don’t get done.

However, high pressure for a long period can lead to anxiety, a low emotional state and unhappiness. Leaders do not perform well throughout these times either.

Here is what I have discovered about myself and the best way for me to handle pressure…

I am not perfect. I will never get it right all the time. Learn to keep expectations realistic. There is enough pressure on me in my role without me adding some more of my own.

Change is inevitable. Change can create feelings of uncertainty, which can raise levels of anxiety and pressure. I have learned to accept that change will always happen. Leading through change is a permanent expectation in my world and that takes the pressure off.

Don’t quit. My head can hurt trying to work out the correct response to a situation. The ‘how will I’ question is never far away from my thinking. Quitting doesn’t answer the question, it just brings pressure of a different kind. I have learned to create some margin for thinking things through. If I don’t do this often enough, I can feel the squeeze and headaches may come.

Not all leaders are the same. My capacity is not the same as yours and vice versa. The complexity of leadership often increases with greater the levels of responsibility. The key for me is to always be growing as a leader, then I will at least be part ready when I inevitably come across something I don’t know.

Don’t carry what is not mine to carry. This can be difficult but it’s important. I don’t need to carry everything. If I do I will increase my feelings of being overwhelmed. My primary role is to focus on what I should focus on, the issues at hand that need my attention. When I get distracted and lose time with other things that another person could be focused on then I will feel the pressure, both in levels of workload and emotionally too.

Don’t ignore it. Denying the existence of pressure doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Recognise its existence and be prepared for when it comes.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you cope with pressure?

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