How to Manage Pressure as a Leader: Philosophy, Principles, and Habits

It’s a high pressure job being a leader. There is an enormous amount of visibility and expectations placed on the shoulders of leaders in organizations, which can be difficult for one to manage at times. However, there are specific habits that leaders need to establish and maintain to deal with high-pressure situations.

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As leaders advance in their organizations, both their impact and visibility grow. With that additional scrutiny comes additional responsibility to perform and produce results. Leaders frequently face situations with both high levels of uncertainty and high levels of complexity. In these situations, many leaders – especially those who are managing people for the first time – tend to struggle.

There are three things that I rely on to help me through these times of increased scrutiny:

  1. Leadership Philosophy
  2. Leadership Principles
  3. Consistent Healthy Habits

The first is to have and follow a clear leadership philosophy, which I have written about in a previous post. Leaders need a philosophy that will help guide decisions, make actionable plans possible, and it must be simple enough to use as a filter when making difficult choices. For example, let’s say that a leader’s philosophy states that everyone must be able to articulate the vision for the department/organization. If you find that most people on the team cannot articulate the answer to the question, “Where are we going?” then it is probably time for a re-set before working to complete the task at hand.

Secondly, if your leadership philosophy is the foundation, then leadership principles are the walls that build on that foundation. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and a New York Times bestseller, has not only written a book on this subject, but has a great social media presence articulating his leadership principles (Follow him on LinkedIn). Different than Dalio though, I try to keep my leadership principles to no more than 5, whereas he has articulated many more than that. Principles like, “People first,” “No individual need should be elevated above the health of the team,” and “Maintain a silliness-free zone” can serve as a check on whether or not a leader is on track by their own standards.

Finally, leaders need habits. Habits that, when practiced everyday, will help them stay grounded in high-pressure situations. For me, these habits include maintaining a reading schedule, reading each morning and evening, transcendental meditation, and a good night’s sleep with a structured morning routine. Habits, like these, help produce consistency when high-pressure situations can otherwise make it feel like everything is fall apart around a leader.

It’s important for leaders to understand the pressure they are under and how to manage it. Creating and using your own philosophy and principles, coupled with building healthy habits every day, will help you to thrive and lead your team through any challenges you may face.

Key Takeaway: Developing a leadership philosophy, leadership principles, and positive habits can help leaders navigate the seemingly never-ending pressures that are part of a high-visibility job.