How To Overcome The 5 Pressures Of Leadership

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Leadership is not for wimps.

#Leadership is not for wimps! Click To Tweet

Wimps don’t like pressure, and leadership is all about pressure. When I was leading my TV team to over 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings, there wasn’t a single week where I didn’t feel pressure—sometimes extreme pressure!

It’s probably the same for you too, isn’t it?

Now, your specific pressures may not be the same as mine (for example, when was the last time you were worried because joke #3 in the opening monolog wasn’t as strong as it could be?), but I’ve found that there are 5 universal pressure points that most leaders feel at one time or another. I call them The 5 Pressures of Leadership, and they lie on a scale from impersonal to personal. Here they are, in order.

  1. The Clock. This is the pressure of the deadline. In my world, we went on the air every Saturday at 11:30. This was not up for debate. In your world, it might be a new product launch date, or an important meeting, or any number of things. It’s the pressure you feel when the clock—the impartial, impersonal clock—is ticking. When you’re under the Pressure of The Clock, your focus should be on Preparation. The Pressure of the Clock is exacerbated by procrastination, and preparation is the antidote to procrastination.
  2. The Facts. As a leader, you sometimes—perhaps even often—have to make big decisions without having all the facts. When this happens to you, your focus should be on Confidence. You may have heard the adage, “It’s more important to make a decision than the right decision.” In the absence of information, you may not know what the “right” decision is. But you’re still the leader, and your attitude is important. You need to have confidence in your judgment, and you need to exude confidence to your team.
  3. The Organization. Your organization—the company, the association, the non-profit—has expectations of you as a leader. You represent the organization, and you are accountable to the organization. So the Pressure of The Organization is the pressure to “deliver the goods.” Your focus here is on Communication. You must be clear on the expectation, and the organization must be clear on the deliverables. This clarity only comes with clear communication.
  4. The Team. Whether you know it or not, your team is always looking at you and to you. They want to know that they can depend on you, that you have their back, and that they can have confidence in you as their leader. The focus here must be on Trust. This trust goes two ways. Your team must trust that you are capable of leading them, and you must show your team that you trust their ability to do the job.
  5. The Imposter. This may be the most insidious of the 5 Pressures. It’s the pressure you put on yourself, stemming from the feeling that, deep down inside, you may be a fraud. You may not be quite as good as everyone thinks you are, and that you’ll eventually be found out. It’s commonly called The Imposter Syndrome, and it affects high-achievers (particularly female high-achievers) more than most others. Here, your focus should be on Recognition. You need to recognize The Imposter for who he or she is—an illusion. This is the only one of the 5 Pressures that is not based on fact. Once you recognize that, you’ll have what it takes to defeat The Imposter.
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To be an effective leader, you must learn to deal with, and in fact, embrace, these 5 Pressures. Like leadership itself, they’re not for wimps.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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