Dealing with leadership stress

Robert Mandeya

GIVEN a lot of things that need to be done and too little time to accomplish everything, leaders must always take a little time out. Being able to involve yourself on all aspects of your responsibilities is both the most exciting and exhausting part when you are a leader. Given the volatile economic environment which Zimbabwe is going through, business leaders are stretched to the limit?

However, true leaders know that certain levels of stress can keep them focussed, make them competitive, and encourage action. However, stress can also be lethal, especially in today’s vile economic reality, where business leaders are facing endless unproductive hours, layoffs, and anxiety about what the future may hold.

Keeping perspective

It is crucial to acknowledge that no matter how bad the circumstances are, or how big your challenge is, there are others in a worse situation than you. In these times of economic instability, managers have to talk to their staff about cost reductions, possible dismissals, and new ways to make profit. There is no doubt that this can be very stressful.

Just picture this scenario where Tawanda, an executive director at a major communications’ firm, decides to go out for lunch at a nearby restaurant after delivering the dreadful news. While he is there, he notices that the cashier is in a wheelchair, and he also sees a blind customer trying to order a meal. Immediately he realises that his problem can go away but theirs are for life. Nevertheless, they looked happy, optimistic, and energised. Basically, their attitude was far more inspiring than his at that moment and he was grateful for the lesson.

Staying fit and well

Exercise is crucial for a leader’s success. Several studies have proven that leaders who exercise are more effective and deal much better with stress. Exercise helps keep emotions under control, and it relaxes and energises you. We know it is not easy to fit an exercise schedule when you are a busy executive, however, you must find a way. You and everyone around you will be thankful for it.

Opening up

Stress manifests when you bottle up things, and leaders often feel they have to manage certain things by themselves. By opening up, it will make you appear vulnerable but in a good way, and that is what draws people to a leader. Releasing the load will make you feel liberated, and the more your staff knows about a serious situation, the more in control they will feel. You can always find opportunities to share the situation formally or informally.

Accepting feedback and criticism

Acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, makes it easier to remain calm. The more you welcome ideas and opportunities, the more powerful you will feel. However, this means you have to ask people to be honest with you, and you have to be ready to accept what they say even if you do not like it. Allowing for this will make you smarter, and will diminish everyone’s stress because they know they can speak and you will listen.

Re-organising your life

You must get organised and define your priorities, both professionally and personally. You can add stress to your life by making last minute preparations for a meeting or by not sharing crucial information in a timely manner. This usually happens when you are worried about competition and secondary assignments. Most people live their lives in a very busy but undisciplined way. In many cases, we only care about doing things non-stop, without ever considering stopping certain things. Successful leaders make it a habit to select one unproductive thing that wastes their time daily and stop doing it.

Recharging batteries

Take time to slow down! Working long hours without stopping will not make you more productive, much to the contrary; it will jeopardise your performance. When you take time to recharge, you are able to do more in less time.

Professional athletes know it very well: overdo it and you will get burned out. Breathing is something that most people tend to take for granted. Breathing is a natural thing to us but here, we are referring to slow deep breaths. To do this right, place your hand on your abdomen, right under your belly button. Hold it for one or two seconds and breathe out slowly. Perform this for more than a few minutes and you will become aware of how your heart rate slows down. Doing this will make you feel refreshed and more relaxed. I am not a health expert, but I have found that this works in many situations

Let go of the stress

Stress tends to manifest itself more in some parts of our body than in others. The jaw is among them. To release the tension in that part, try to do this exercise. Put your index fingers’ tips on your jaw’s joints precisely in front of your ears. Clamp your teeth together and take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds and then utter ‘Ahh …’ as you breathe out. Repeat this for several minutes.

Create a mantra.

Write down your personal encouraging affirmation. It must be short and easy to remember, and it must have enough ability to boost your hope and mood to cope with nerve-racking situations. Whenever you are stressed, say your mantra about 10 times and notice how it makes you feel more collected and calm.

For instance, a mantra like “Am better than this or am a winner!” will always give you that affirmation and assurance. Never let stress ruin you. Spend a few moments each day to look after yourself and free yourself from stress. You will feel much better and so will your business!

Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of LiRD. — robert@lird.co.zw/www.lird.co.zw.

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