Escaping the Stressors of Leadership the Stressors of Leadership


Guest Post by Mike Figliuolo

The pressure on leaders is increasing every day. Calls for “doing more with less” echo through the halls as ever-escalating expectations create a great deal of stress for leaders. The investment of a leader’s time, energy, and attention (what we call “leadership capital”) is a critical choice leaders make every day.

The options for delivering on these heightened expectations are limited. Sure, leaders can step on the proverbial gas pedal and work harder and longer, but play that game too long and the stress will add up. The cumulative effects of these stressors can be devastating.

When leaders overwork themselves, their teams tend to do the same. People stay at the office until the boss leaves; their stress levels are correlated with those of their boss. Eventually, team members get burned out and some look for new jobs that will be less stressful.

When they quit, they leave their leader shorthanded with an open role to fill. That vacancy increases the leader’s stress and puts an additional burden on the other team members to pick up the slack. This negative performance spiral then picks up speed with no sign of slowing down. This brute force approach to increasing leadership capital isn’t sustainable.

If you want to avoid the problems that come from overworking yourself and your team, the best option is being smarter about how you spend your time and energy. How? Do a better job understanding where you’re investing your leadership capital by assessing which of your team members are consuming the most of it, categorizing their behavior, and then changing your approach to leading them.

If you’re investing too much time and energy and not getting results:
• Change the way you’re leading them
• Build their skill so they don’t demand so much attention from you, or best of all
• Both

This isn’t about leaving people categorized in boxes – it’s about understanding your behavior relative to theirs. If you get either one of those to change, or ideally both, you will expend less energy and leadership capital in the process.


Mike Figliuolo is the co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results. He’s also the managing director of the leadership development training firm, thoughtLEADERS, LLC. Learn more about his book at

Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, trainers, and award-winning authors. They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards, and called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great.” Take their Leadership Derailers Assessment or sign up for their newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps! the Stressors of Leadership

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