Learn to stop worrying and love the job

04 October 2010

In an interview with 'The Globe and Mail', Professor Graham Jones urges leaders, and those they lead, to get mentally tough and stay resilient. Read part of the interview below.

Forget dreaming of a time when your job didn't have any pressure. In good times or bad, successful leadership and high stress are inseparable, so you should think of pressure as your ally, rather than a force that can crush you.

Why is pressure so dangerous now?

It's the two-year mark in the economic downturn, and we still don't know for sure whether things are getting better or whether things may get worse. We know that recessions are cyclical, but this one is so hard to predict that even senior leaders tell me behind closed doors that they are being overwhelmed with the pressure and are trying to inspire people when they are not very inspired themselves. Developing a mindset that pressure is not something to be avoided, and coming up with ways to operate under pressure, will not only help you stay resilient, but keep your people more resilient as well.

Why do you say 'real' leaders can't play it safe?

Particularly in tough times, there is a temptation to become risk-averse and play it safe. But when leaders do that, their focus becomes covering their behinds. They avoid conflict and become afraid to question managements' views and demands. The result is they spend less time coaching their people and more time telling their subordinates what to do and how to do it. That feeds on itself and you develop a culture in which employees play it safe as well. There is lots of second guessing and blame while people keep themselves out of the firing line and less gets accomplished.

By contrast, a real leader is constantly trying to find new ways of doing things and keeping others motivated to do them, which you must do if you want to move an organization successfully into the new economic world. The foundations of being a real leader are mental toughness, self-belief, self-control and keeping focused on what matters. The advantage to being a real leader in a situation like this is that you are looking at the long term when everyone is looking at the short term.

To read the article from The Globe and Mail in full, click here