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How to Alleviate Pressure by Making It Work for You

How to Alleviate Pressure by Making It Work for You

Stress kills.

Stress has been indicated as a key factor in heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It breaks up relationships and ruins careers, and ultimately, it seems that the only thing you need to know about stress is this: get away from it.

A lot of people think that stress and pressure are the same thing, so when they feel pressure, they try to do the same thing as when they feel stress: just get away. The thing is, stress and pressure are not the same, and they don’t affect you the same way. How can you tell them apart? It’s simple: if the feeling goes away as you remove yourself from the situation causing it, it was stress. If, as you try to move away, the feeling hunts you down, chases after you, and even gets worse, it’s pressure.

By that measure, pressure sounds far nastier than stress, but pressure can actually be a useful, good sensation. Pressure is a messenger: it’s trying to help you, and has vital information that you can use. Stress is just mean—it just causes pain with no real purpose behind it.

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I Always Loved My Dentist Until…

Dentists get a bad rap: everybody seems to associate them with drills and needles, but I liked my dentist  when I was a kid. Dr. Bauer was friendly and kind and he had an amazingly gentle touch. And, to a boy, the dentist’s office was full of some really cool contraptions. Oooh, and they had Highlights magazine in the waiting room. Yup, it was just a place for adventure.

Of course, I had pretty much only been there to have my teeth cleaned. One day, my best buddy John came around looking all sad, and was in a fair amount of pain too. “What happened to you?” I asked my sad friend.“Oh, I just got back from the dentist. I had to have a tooth pulled.” Hmm, I had all my teeth, so I had no perspective on this. “So how’d it go?” I inquired. “Well, he practically crawled up on my chest to pull that thing.” That didn’t sound good. “But he used anesthetic, right?” I asked hopefully. “Well sure, but it’s not like it helped.” What? Anesthetic didn’t help? This was starting to sound ugly.

“He whipped out these big pair of chromed pliers and started yanking. Then he said to me, ‘John, what you are feeling is not pain (grunt), it’s pressure.’ Let me tell you something, it sure felt like pain to me.”

Of course it did. For what might have seemed like good reasons, John associated that pressure with pain and so pain is what he got.

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I Only Make Associations Because They Are Associated

In that moment, John wasn’t too open to the idea that the association he made between pressure and pain was completely of his own choosing: he went into the experience expecting pain, and so, whatever he felt, it was going to be linked to pain. The good dentist even attempted to decouple the two for him but he would have none of it.

What do you associate with pressure? Pain? Defeat? Depression? Anger? Restriction? I am guessing that your list will look something like that one, with each association more negative than the last. So, let me whisper a little secret in your ear: Cut it out!

You can make any associations you like so let me make the case for making some positive associations, like: learning opportunity; wake-up call; early warning; and protection.

Pressure Is Communication Without Language

Pressure is a feeling. Since it doesn’t come in words, we might not feel it if it’s elevated to the level of reasoned thought. But feelings are thoughts; merely thoughts that are expressed in your body instead of in your mind.

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So when experiencing pressure, you have to be more like a veterinarian than a doctor. My apologies to all the doctors out there but vets have a harder job—they have to do all the same healing work as you do, but their patients can’t tell them what’s wrong. Any decent vet will probably come to the defense of all their doctor friends right now saying, “Oh but my patients do talk to me, just not in words.” Yup, vets are such nice people.

Listen Up

What really matters is that you listen. Pressure is a feeling that’s trying to help you, but it doesn’t have a vocabulary, so it uses the only means available to it. Granted, those means are generally uncomfortable, but you have to admit that they are effective.  Pressure does get your attention. So now what will you do? Brush it off? Run? Argue it down? Instead, give listening a chance.

Just asking the question, “Why am I feeling this pressure right now?” will likely result in an immediate answer. So ask. Then ask if there is more, and don’t stop until you are clear about what the message is. How do you know when to stop asking? Simple: stop when the pressure subsides.

This would be good enough advice if the only result was that your pressure went away, but it does far more for you than that: it now allows you to wield the pressure as a tool that will help to reap fruitful results. We use tools to accomplish work so why not make pressure work for you rather than cause you suffering?

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Have you listened to your own inner pressure? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Featured photo credit:  Young business woman tormented via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

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        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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