How is Your Stress Analysis?

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
Marcus Aurelius

 Stress has become second-nature to most people in leadership today. In fact, stress is no longer a variable to be considered by leaders—it is, as they say in mathematics, a “given.” And although Marcus Aurelius lived about two millennia ago, he understood an essential aspect of stress analysis: the internal response is just as important as the external pressure.

The topic of stress has topped many conversations in corporate families across the country. In some businesses, we’ve discovered leaders doing work that once was accomplished by one or even two other individuals. In other words, these men and women are carrying the load of two or three employees—striving to meet daily demands with a smile on their faces and some sort of spring in their step.

Yet the scientific principles of stress analysis tell us that withstanding this type of pressure might be possible for a short season, but eventually something is going to give. This is why civil, mechanical and aerospace engineers carefully design structures of all sizes, such as tunnels, bridges and dams, aircraft and rocket bodies, and mechanical parts. They also study the impact of stress so they not only can improve the maintenance of such structures but also avoid potential structural failures.

This begs two essential questions of you as a leader:

  1. How are you trying to improve the maintenance of your “structure”—i.e., your personal and professional life?
  2. What are you intentionally doing to avoid “structural failure” in your Corporate Family?

You see, just like bridges, airplanes, and buildings, people have their limits when it comes to stress and strain. No one can withstand intense pressure forever, so it is up to each of us to analyze our individual stress levels and constantly work on maintaining balance. And as we role-model stress management techniques to our team members, we’re passing on valuable skill sets that will also help to avoid structural failure within our Corporate Family.

As Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius waged many personal and professional battles, but one historian summarized his leadership this way: “But for my part, I admire him all the more for this very reason, that amid unusual and extraordinary difficulties, he both survived himself and preserved the empire” (Cassius Dio). Emperor Aurelius took an honest look at stress and dealt with it directly. May the same be said of us one day, too.