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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Positive Leadership: Turning Pressure into an Asset

Pressure is nothing more than the shadow of great opportunity.’ – Michael Johnson, US Olympic Gold Medallist

Here are six things experienced leaders do that transform pressure from a liability to an asset:

Know Thyself: Leaders must know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and where they will and won’t compromise. When a leader is comfortable in their own skin they won’t fear dissenting opinion and diversity of thought, they’ll encourage it. Knowing who you are frees you to become a better thinker and a better leader.

Lead: A leader’s job is to acquire and develop talent. The larger the organisation you lead, the more your performance is dependent upon the talent of your team. The better the talent, and the better you utilise talent, the less pressure you’ll feel. The key to capacity, throughput, and scale is not found by doing – but by developing others to do. Leaders who feel the least amount of pressure are those who spend the most time acquiring and developing talent. Conversely, leaders who feel the most pressure are those who feel they must do everything themselves.

Keep It Simple: Complexity creates pressure. The best leaders look to simplify everything they can. Simplicity rarely equates to a lack of sophistication – it actually demonstrates remarkable elegance. Simplicity drives understanding, which leads to a certainty of execution. One truism you can count on is performance relives pressure.

Get Alignment: Great leaders strive for the following: one vision – one team – one agenda. Organisations that have a shared purpose, common values, and aligned interests are simply more productive than organisations that don’t. Alignment of values and vision take the complexity out of decision-making, and removes the ambiguity from the process of prioritisation. Leaders who have organisational alignment feel less pressure than those who don’t.

Focus: Focused leaders rarely feel external pressure. Unfocused leaders feel as if pressure is coming at them from all directions. Focus affords leaders clarity of thought that a cluttered mind will never realise. It’s not possible to lead an organisation toward a better future when a leaders mind can’t see through the fog. An organisation is never under greater pressure, or at greater risk, than when leaders lose their focus.

Create Whitespace: The best way to maintain focus is to make sure you’ve allowed for some whitespace EVERY day. Any rubber band stretched too tightly will eventually snap – there are no exceptions to this rule. Leaders who don’t create time for quality thought and planning end-up taking unnecessary short cuts and risks. They let pressure force them into making bad decisions that a little whitespace could have prevented.


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