Managing the Line Between Leadership Pressure, and Stress

Like Don't move Unlike

Pressure is inevitable, and necessary, in the life of a leader. Stress, on the other hand, can cause tremendous damage.

Every leader knows that pressure is an energy that generates actions and results. Internal pressure is that innate inner drive that causes a leader to want to accomplish great things; to improve the fortunes of a cause or organization. External pressure can galvanize a leader to “up their game” and to solve complex problems.

But stress is different.

Stress occurs when those pressures exceed the capacity of a leader for an extended period of time. The result can take its toll on the leader emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually.

There is a distinct and discernable line between pressure and stress. And it’s the job of the leader to recognize that line and to manage it. And one of the best ways to do that is to regularly ask yourself these questions…

1. Are my current challenges energizing me, or draining me?

Leadership is all about tackling problems. If you’re operating within your capacity, those challenges will fill you with a certain energy that can be quite exhilarating. But if instead those challenges find you shrinking back and feeling beaten up, you may have crossed the stress line.

2. If I’ve crossed the stress line, is this temporary or permanent?

Crossing the stress line is manageable for a season. But if this becomes part of an ongoing pattern, you will need to make some changes.

3. Can I increase my leadership capacity?

Stress can result from an insufficiency in skills, resources or expertise. Sometimes the stress line is a signal that it’s time to ratchet up your leadership horsepower.

4. Am I in the right role?

Ultimately, the stress line can be an indicator that your assignment is not a good fit for your leadership. Have the courage to ask, “Should I be passing the leadership baton to another leader?”

Here’s the point. Pressure is not the enemy of effective leadership. Leaders thrive under pressure. But stress is a different animal. And when you’ve crossed the stress line it can take a serious toll.

So learn to recognize the stress line.

And for the sake of your leadership, learn not to cross it.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.


  1. “copy files (if necessary)” when you imported the library file. The import should be done in a click-and-drag fashion, from the Finder window to the Xcode window.I’m running Snow Leopard myself, and MCPKit is definitely compatible with Snow Leo.Let me know if this fixes your problem!

  2. Well 24 seven, there are supervisors all over the place that are paid many dollars to run the State of New Jersey.There are always mangaers in charge. I am sure the people that were away could always be reached by way of email or cell phone. Also texting etc.In 2010 communication is done by these means. I like the old school way but the world is changeing.

  3. Purity, huh?! Sure, I’ll write about that soon! Until then, here’s some things to consider: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:8 MSG)

  4. I have a quick question – that really doesn’t have anything to do with this but – I sent a query and forgot to put “query” in the subject line or something like that so it’s blank. Could my query be rejected without being read because of it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *