The stress of leadership: why it matters

The stress of leadership: why it matters

Ask the majority of leaders in successful businesses how work is and they will answer… “Busy, very busy”

But what does that really mean? Scratch the surface and you will likely find the real answer is more likely to sound something like…

“Trying to fix one problem, while another 10 problems unfold”

“Working many more hours than I am paid for or can cope with”

“Mentally trying to manage the pressure, both from above and below me”

Or to put it more concisely…


Is workplace stress real?

As a society, we seem reluctant to admit that we are stressed at work. Rather we choose to answer that we are ‘busy’ than admitting that things are really getting on top of us. This is perhaps due to feeling that admitting stress is admitting that we cannot deal with our workload.

This reluctance to talk about how pressure is impacting us is so prolific that we could be forgiven for believing that workplace stress doesn’t really exist at all. But this just isn’t the case.

In fact, the Health and Safety Executive estimates that 12.8 million days were lost in 2018/19 due to stress, depression or anxiety.

The stress of leadership

Leaders within workplaces often put themselves in positions of stress much greater than others within a business. One of the traits of a good leader is that they hold themselves accountable, even when results are not necessarily a direct result of their actions.

Leaders often feel the pressure from above to get the job done and from below to consider the wants and needs of those within their team.

The workplace impact

Although holding yourself accountable can be a positive trait for leaders, when taken too far it can also have a negative or toxic impact on the business. The stress that leaders are put under can often result in short tempers and a loss of focus, ultimately leading to failure to do their job properly.

Not only can a stressed leader be bad for business, but it will also often lead to them missing the signs of stress within those they lead. Clearly, both these impacts can lead to a downward spiral of failure, stress, further failure and so on.

What can leaders do?

Spotting the signs of stress

The Health and Safety Executive  provide some clear signs of stress within teams, these include:

  • Arguments
  • High staff turnover
  • More reports of stress
  • More absence due to sickness
  • Decreased performance
  • More complaints and grievances

Schedule rest time

According to recent studies, 40% of all UK employees reported taking just half their annual leave. With this in mind, it is easy to see why stress is such a big issue in workplaces.

We are often expected to be on call 24/7 with very little time to fully detach from our work. This often leads to fatigue and can seriously impact our overall performance. So, although we are working more hours, we are not necessarily getting more done.

A leader should ensure that they schedule regular breaks from work where they can relax and reset. It is also a leaders role to make sure that their teams are doing the same thing, ensuring that your team are on the best form possible to get the job done.

Ask for help

One of the biggest phycological blockers for leaders is admitting that they need help. This may be admitting that they need a little extra help to get a job done, through to asking for help when they generally feel like it is all getting too much.

It is shortsighted for a leader to think they can do it all without the support of their team. Working collaboratively and smart delegation is what makes a great leader. Not only does this help take pressure off your plate, but it also helps you develop the skills within your team.

It is clear that workplace stress is a very real and very important issue. It is a leaders responsibility to ensure that their own stress levels do not impact their team or their work, as well as ensuring that their teams stress levels are kept in check.


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