Growing Under Pressure: Where Leaders Are Born
Leaders are like precious stones, they are both created by means of the same process: pressure. It's been said that pressure reveals character. You can tell more about someone by the way that they respond to pressure than almost anything else. Some people focus and maintain their integrity while under pressure... others collapse. This is what makes the difference between leaders and followers.
However, pressure does a bit more than just reveal a person's true character, it also presents the opportunity to build the character required to excel and to prosper under pressure. This is the process by which leaders are formed. Most leaders achieve (and maintain) the position of a leader because of their ability to be master's conflict. When others run from conflict or avoid it, leaders are there to step up to the plate and take care of business...and that's what makes a leader so rare and valuable.
However, are you valuing pressure and adversity now that you're in your role as a leader? This is an important question because while a leader is a person who is appointed to handle pressure and conflict, a leadership position can also become a convenient place to hide from pressure. Leaders who avoid pressure avoid growth and leaders who don't grow are in danger of losing their position to those who are willing to meet pressure head on.
So let's look at some strategies which will help you to continue to grow under pressure and refine your leadership skills.
Obey the CANI Constant
The term "CANI Constant" refers to "constant and never-ending improvement" and it's the key to prospering in the role of a leader. One of the most valuable habits you can form as a leader is the habit of consistently moving out of your comfort zone and challenging yourself. The analogy of being "on top of the mountain" has often been used to describe leadership roles...but this metaphor is misleading. It suggests that there is no more climbing to do, no more growing, no more looking up...only looking down, and possibly rolling a few snowballs down to deter those climbing up to take your position!
But remember that pride always goes before a fall and when there's nowhere else to look but down, you'll almost certainly follow that path in time. Instead, the role of being a leader is more like being on the front lines of an army marching into battle. In other words, you are the first to meet adversity and pressure head on. You're the one looking towards the horizon at the opportunities and the challenges to come. This is the only way you can be consistently prepared to lead your team in the right direction.
However, if you stop charging ahead and if you expect someone else (even a team member) to handle the difficult tasks for you, you'll end up following after that person in time. This is how those who are not in traditional roles of leadership end up becoming more influential than the leaders with formal titles. So as a leader, learn to recognize when you're being met with adversity and have the courage to meet it head on. Know that this is your chance to grow into the leader you need to become.
Also, learn to go above and beyond and to stretch yourself beyond the boundary of your own comfort. You can start today. Just find one thing that you can do to force yourself out of your comfort zone, and start doing it. This is the key to obeying the CANI Constant.
Rise to the Occasion
What is your normal course of action when met with adversity? Start looking for opportunities to grow under pressure and respond by meeting them head on instead of running from them. Learn to recognize when you have the temptation to avoid a challenge and take that as a signal that the wisest move is to meet adversity with courage and enthusiasm. Many of us regard fear or some other unpleasant emotion as a warning to avoid a circumstance.
However, many times fear or discomfort is a warning to do the opposite: to meet the circumstance as an opportunity to become a more courageous and influential leader. If you develop this habit, you'll quickly grown into a leader who people naturally want to follow.