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How good leaders deal with stress

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In “The Little Book of Leadership” we point out how important it is for leaders to be able to show their “human face” instead of trying to appear infallible under all circumstances. Did you know that this is the basis for trust in leaders?


Let’s look at stress. What is stress?  Here is a definition:

“Stress is what arises when something we care about is at stake.” 

Clearly, it affects everyone, and leaders are no exception. There are actually few positions with such a high inherent potential to develop stress.


Is it “human” for a leader to show stress?

What should leaders do if they feel very stressed and worried about their business’s development?

If they show their doubts and fears in an unfiltered way this will have serious repercussions on the company.  Fear travels fast, especially when it comes from the top.

However, a good leader should not suppress their stress either. Suppressed feelings boil over, especially for leaders who are constantly under scrutiny.


How do we best deal with stress?

The best way to deal with stress is in a competent, self-managed manner.

First, everyone, especially leaders, should develop their own anti-stress programme.

For many of us, this involves regular sport, a healthy diet and enough sleep.

However, there is another important element: recent studies in the field have concluded that the single most important factor regarding our ability to deal with stress is our “stress mindset”.


There are two fundamental mindsets with regards to stress:

  1. Stress is harmful, i.e. stress depletes health, debilitates performance and inhibits learning.
  1. Stress is enhancing, i.e. it activates energy and improves health, enhances learning and performance.


A good leader adopts and internalises the 2nd mindset. This helps him to activate a so-called “challenge response” to potentially stressful external events and in turn takes him into a flow state.

Instead of saying the words “I’m so stressed”, the good leader says to himself “I am excited”, which helps him to dive head on towards challenges.


Want to know more about leaders and how you can cope with stress? Download this eBook by Bertram Valentin and Franziska Plesser.