07 Feb 2023 | 2 min read


Your world is full of pressure. Deadlines. Relationships. Commitments. Expectations. Unexpected situations. Emergencies. Difficult Tasks. Hard Conversations. There are hundreds of stressors fighting for your attention.


But the good news is these occasions can be a time for you to shine as a leader. Here are some tips for leading better under pressure.


Remember, someone is always watching.
Your team is watching you. How you handle stress and high-pressure situations is being observed by your followers. As a leader, you set the thermostat for the room. How you respond during high-tension scenarios plays into the temperature of the rest of the team. Will you get heated and short with people? Will the room feel stuffy, and your followers be nervous about speaking? Or will you take a deep breath and move calmly? Will your team have a serene vibe despite the turmoil around you? You get to set the stage for how this plays out. Your audience will take their cue from you.


You have control over your response.
You might not have any control over your situation, but you do have control over how you react. A good rule of thumb is to wait to act. Not all high-pressure situations require immediate responses. In fact, even though it may FEEL like you need to respond right away, you can solve most scenarios better after a thoughtful period. So give it some time. The ability to remain composed and avoid quick reactions is a sign of a seasoned leader.


Pressure is not always a bad thing.
Professional speakers love the metaphor of coals turning into diamonds under pressure because it’s such a compelling image. It might be an overplayed analogy, but it’s true. Some of your greatest growth will happen during uncomfortable points of tension. Lean into those moments. Embrace the pressure. The more opportunities you have to learn from pressure, the better you will be able to handle it in the future.


Build good habits BEFORE you feel pressure.
According to an interview with Rob McKenna, the author of Composed: The Art and Science of Leading Under Pressure, most leaders default to well-developed habits in times of stress. It’s natural to want to take the easiest way out of a tough situation. As a leader, you tend to rely on your instincts when dealing with pressure. But that is where habits developed over time can help us make better decisions in the heat of the moment. If you understand your tendencies and work on counteracting your weaknesses, you can stay strong and true to your values when you come against hard situations in the future.