Leadership can be stressful. But effective leaders use stress as a constructive force rather than allowing it to become a destructive one. Stress occurs when conditions produce awareness that some action is required to satisfy a need, to solve a problem, or to prevent some undesirable result. Without constructive stress, motivation would be at an extremely low level, and very little would ever be accomplished. Adopt the attitude that stress is a challenge to your creativity – a welcome opportunity to perform well. Constructive stress inspires people to act, to achieve, and to utilize more of their full potential for success.
Stress becomes destructive when the pressure to act cannot be met, or when one believes it cannot be met. If the perceived need to act requires more time, more money, greater skill, or productivity than the individual can supply, the force of stress becomes negative. The result is physical or psychological damage – or both. Stress activates primitive emotions and increases body functions to meet a threat. If strenuous physical activity follows, the body returns to normal as soon as the need has been met and no further threat exists. But if the perceived threat is not eliminated by these activities, the body continues to prepare itself for meeting additional threat until a point of physical exhaustion is reached. All sorts of physical damage and ailments occur as a consequence of a continuous state of stress.
Even more damaging than the physical toll of stress are the psychological effects. Continuing stress that cannot be satisfied by a reasonable level of activity shortens tempers and frays nerves. It destroys the thrill and excitement of achievement because no accomplishment ever seems good enough. The resulting dissatisfaction with personal productivity causes a breakdown in relationships with people at work and at home. Undue stress hampers decision-making effectiveness, decreases personal productivity, and blocks creativity.
Minimizing destructive stress requires planning ahead and setting priorities. A system for handling every part of the work cuts down on the number of decisions that must be made day by day, transforms many problems into automatic procedures, and makes sure there is an appropriate team member to handle most situations that arise.