No one enjoys working for a stressed-out boss, and when that stressed-out boss is the CEO, it's doubly bad news. Here are six factors all leaders should consider to minimize stress and nurture wellbeing.
- Know thyself. Managing stress is an inside job. Quite often, the level of stress felt by CEOs facing a sea of change and challenge comes down to their own style of leadership and approach. A CEO’s approach to leadership is defined by their beliefs and what they feel they can and can’t do — or, as Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right." Resilience is one of the most important tools in managing stress: It is not about being tougher or harder but about what is required to create bearability from within. The most successful CEOs are those who have learned to understand their own reactions and behaviors in response to stress and who have made a large enough investment into their own wellbeing to overcome them.
- Lead from the heart of the business rather than the top. CEOs can avoid some pressures by ensuring instead that they are very much part of a wide and supportive team. Senior leaders can be seen as the unapproachable “power at the top,” which in turn can leave the leader feeling alone in decision making, inducing stress and feeling as though responsibility for every action lies with them. CEOs should instead see themselves as the center of a hub and develop a culture where it is okay to talk; it should not be considered a sign of weakness to signal that there is a problem or that an issue needs attending to.
- Delegate. Leaders should see themselves as orchestrating and empowering leadership all around the business rather than being over-involved in the operational level decisions. Delegation allows CEOs the freedom to truly lead and provide strategic direction. It allows senior leaders the space to visualize the future of the business as a whole.
- Slow it dow. When things get tough, the natural instinct is to run faster, work harder. However, the best thing CEOs can do when leading in a challenging situation is to stop and refocus. This can seem counterintuitive to powerful figureheads, but tasks or files need to be compartmentalized. Switch off; gain perspective.
- Don’t forget the mental and spiritual you. Wellbeing is often thought of as a focus on the physical self, what we are putting into our bodies and how much exercise we get. However, for true wellbeing we must focus not only on the physical but on the emotional, mental and even spiritual self. Equal investment into all of these areas will ensure natural energy and balance.
- Be authentic. Many CEOs overlook what is actually important to them and their own beliefs. Many sacrifice their own ambitions for the success of the organization. By leading from their own values and recognizing that is OK to be themselves, growing successful organizations becomes part of the CEO’s personal journey and development rather than their only purpose.
Michael Lewis is managing director at the London-based leadership development and training consultancy Different Dynamics.