Stress and the Call to Lead

Stress is real and in certain seasons, it abounds. It can limit our creativity and make us feel like we are going backwards when all effort is focused on moving forward. It can show up in our lives as a major crisis or just another busy season. Sometimes stress is caused by internal challenges and other times from external issues. Every team and every individual faces seasons of stress. It is during these seasons that good leadership is more significant than ever.

Here are a few things to never forget as you respond to seasons of stress:

1. Don’t panic

The best leaders I have observed exude a level of calmness in the midst of crisis. This isn’t manufactured or faked serenity. Good leaders have the ability to understand reality and yet see a preferred future. If the leader panics, everyone panics. During trying times, a good leader brings peace into the situation and calmly assures people; not by giving false hope but rather, helping people understand and find their balance in the midst of a challenging time.

2. Find joy in plodding

Plodding equates with long suffering. During seasons of great stress, endurance is always tested and the temptations to quit grow stronger. Leadership is about walking in faith by putting one foot in front of the other and keeping the team moving forward. The call of a leader is to remain steadfast in both good times and bad times.

3. Stay above reproach

Character is often tested in times of great stress. People are constantly watching how a leader responds when times are challenging and chaotic. A leader must remain authentic and yet unquestionable in their integrity. This is imperative for the overall health of the team and organization. Remember, people are watching. What a leader chooses to say and/or do will be taken seriously and often times open to other’s personal interpretations. This is why it is so important to lead and live with integrity.

4. Don’t neglect your own health

The call of leading a team or an organization requires that a leader is on top of their game. Thus, a leader must remain healthy personally to fulfill their calling. I have noticed in my own rhythms when facing stress that I can become a workaholic, neglect exercise, eat too much, and not get enough sleep. However, the opposite should be true. When we face trying times we need to make sure we find adequate rest, say yes to exercise, eat healthy, and stay disciplined in key areas of our lives. Watch your emotional, spiritual, and physical tanks. The health of the leader directly impacts the health of the team.

5. Live with margin

When stress is present, key decisions are more difficult to make. Even thought the decisions are harder, they are never less important an actually might be more important than ever. Having margin in your day and your life will provide room for you to get away, process, and deal with the weightiness of key decisions that need to be made. Part of the responsibility of leading is to provide the team and/or organization clarity in challenging times. Having margin will help you get there.

What else have you found helpful in leading during stress filled seasons?