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Stress Control: Tough Leadership vs. Easy Does It
Tough leaders are usually seen as ogres. Their exacting demands and high expectations add to stress levels. And their obsessive compulsive behavior can have a negative effect on results if they don't understand how to control stress to get positive results without serious negative reactions.
The same kind of leadership challenge can be found in the Army. Management at all levels are faced with the decision of "tough leadership" or "easy does it" in preparing troops for combat and on the battlefield.
Good military leaders work hard to balance the encouragment of positive stress with the debilitating negative stress they confront. The best leaders know how to use positive stress to get the most out of their troops. And they know how to tone things down to when negative stress threatens productivity.
The Army is fanatic about training officers and sergeants to take care of the troops. And these well-trained leaders are fanatic about carrying out their responsibilities. The soldiers in their command don't always realize why these leaders are so focused on having everything 100% ready -- personnel, equipment, and training.
Even the most personable leaders are sometimes accused of managing "by the book" or of being too concerned with their own personal recognition and promotion. But those who make these allegations, miss the point. Just the opposite is true.
As in the corporate arena, these "fanatic" leaders are primarily interested in the welfare of their people. They want to complete the unit's mission with minimum personnel loss. Strict discipline, intensive and complete training, and numerous inspections are essential for combat readiness. Corporate leaders face the same type challenges as they strive for efficient and effective productivity.
Failing to enforce regulations, conduct detailed inspections, or practice combat readiness is tantamount to dereliction of duty. The extra effort that goes into intensive training programs creates additional stress in the unit, but less persistent commanders actually endanger their troops and their mission when they fail to schedule training that teaches troops how to deal with the hazards they will face.
Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to relax a corporate policy. "Easy does it" might be what your employees want to hear, but you might also be derelict in your responsibilities if you give them what they want.
A little "tough leadership" can give your people and your company the edge needed to compete on today's corporate battlefield.
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Dale Collie - professional speaker, former US Army Ranger, CEO, and a Fast Company top 50 innovative leader. Author of "Winning Under Fire." (McGraw-Hill) firstname.lastname@example.org
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