In my last post we discussed imagining what others don’t as a foundational cornerstone of leadership. Another important cornerstone is managing stress and time.
Despite difficult pressures, effective leaders remain focused, clear, and calm, which builds the confidence of everyone around them. Due to the natural “fight or flight” response, certain instincts take over when people, including leaders, respond to stress. The faster we can identify our fight or flight response and avoid pumping unneeded adrenaline through our bodies, the more easily we can respond to the situation and to the people at hand.
As leaders, we must be able to override instinct in stressful work settings, or we end up feeding tension and fueling reactivity. We can model for our people how to choose tools to reduce psychological stress at work. Studies show that people who choose to meet stressors with a positive attitude develop a remarkable hardiness that allows them, despite stress, to stay committed, feel in control, and seek challenges. This hardiness is important for a healthy workplace.
Effective leadership takes time, but time is not the enemy of stellar leaders. Instead, it’s a precious resource to be managed as carefully as any project that takes time to do right. Time should be managed with care, especially when we are committed to offsetting stress. The best way to use limited time is to become more efficient. Efficiency is a choice. More accurately, efficiency is a collection of hundreds of minor choices about how we behave from day to day.
Efficiency depends on a moment-to-moment conscious evolution in our behavior concerning time. As leaders, our time-management skills have a far-reaching collateral impact. By consciously respecting the use of time in the workplace, we are treating those around us as the precious resources they are. Time management for leaders is about respect for others, and managing time promotes the values and vision of our leadership.
Before pushing others to new levels of performance, successful leaders are already pushing themselves and won’t settle for anything but the right information to guide and shape sound decisions. Leadership is about taking responsibility, not passing the buck down the line. Furthermore, leadership is first and foremost about polishing our own mindset and behaviors. It’s about looking in the mirror every day to monitor if we are living the leadership values to which we’ve committed.
I’ll be back in my next post to discuss one more cornerstone: inspiring and encouraging others.