We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.

–2 Corinthians 4: 8 (NLT)

I read a story about King Henry III of Bavaria, who in the eleventh century, grew tired of court life and the pressures of being a monarch. He made an application to Prior Richard at a local monastery, asking to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in the monastery. “Your Majesty,” said Prior Richard, “do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That will be hard because you have been a king.”

“I understand,” said Henry. “The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.”

“Then I will tell you what to do,” said Prior Richard. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” When King Henry died, a statement was written: “The King learned to rule by being obedient.”

Hang around in leadership long enough and there will come a time when you may feel like King Henry of Bavaria – just plain tired of all the pressures of being a leader and ready to walk away from it all.

Let’s be real, there are times when, as John Maxwell has said that “leadership sucks”. It’s when the glamour has worn off, the lights have faded, others have all gone home, that the weight and responsibility of leadership weigh heavy on you.

The pressures and stress in leaders also have a ripple effect. In research that I came across, it suggested that when leaders are adept at managing stress, only about 10% of their employees harbor such negative opinions. The study also found that when employees see their leaders as unable to manage stress, they report lesser ambitions to advance in their organization.

As a leader, you need to be aware not only of the impact that pressure and stress have on you but also on the people you lead. It’s far more reaching than you realize. Click To TweetThere’s just no way to address the myriad of issues surrounding the pressures and stress of leadership in this post. It’s way more involved than time or space allows. But for now, allow me to share what I call my “4 K Everyday” tips to help you as a leader.

Know your limits

It doesn’t matter how good a leader you are, you have limits. You have knowledge limits, time limits, boundary limits, physical limits, emotional limits, etc. Know them. Don’t expect other people to know them much less guard them for you. Sometimes the pressures and stress you endure as leaders are self-inflicted.

When you know your limits you will be less inclined to try and exceed them.

Know your priorities

This simple, yet powerful tip can save you a world of stress. Rather than being the “jack of all trades and the master of none”, why not prioritize what’s on your plate. You don’t have to do it all. Nor should you. It’s when you learn to delegate and empower your people that you can relieve a lot of stress. When you manage your time you marginalize your stress and reduce it. Make this a daily practice of your leadership.

Know your people

Much of the stress and pressure in leadership is culture driven. Simply put – leaders set the tone. You can’t expect your people to have buy-in when you are disengaged. If your people are marginalized or have one foot out the door, what do you think is happening to your stress levels? By knowing your people you are discovering their passions, their talents, their hopes, and their dreams.

By knowing your people you also know what is troubling them and what their concerns are. What’s out in the open serves you much better than what’s kept in the dark. Get to know your people!

Know your values

At the end of the day, it’s your values – your faith, family, etc., that will sustain you. As a leader, you are not immune to stress and pressures. But you don’t have to be the victim of it either. When your values are clear it makes everything else about your leadership much more manageable and delightful.

Leadership is a privilege and a responsibility. The “4 K Everyday” tips can set you on a good path when you put them into practice.


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Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences.
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Laura Staley
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Laura Staley

Thank you for this insightful article, Doug Dickerson. I especially appreciate the recognition of the importance of empowering others. If employees are inspired to “lead themselves, ” to bring their courageous, whole selves, multiple talents/skills to the mission/vision of a company, there could be a transformation in the experience of a single leader thinking he or she had to “be and do it all.” Surrounding yourself with other healthy, vibrant, self-aware, competent, and capable others will allow everyone to thrive and flourish and the customers/clients will become raving fans of your service or product.

Doug Dickerson
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Doug Dickerson

Thank you, Laura Staley, much appreciated!