Working under stress can be a creative way to achieve results quickly and effectively. You can see the world with greater clarity.
Winston Churchill struggled with depression, and that may have made him a better leader.
Research by Tufts University psychiatry professor, Nassir Ghaemi, suggested mood disorders help people to find leadership clarity in times of crisis. They tend to see the world will clearly, and as it is. Referring specifically to Winston Churchill, Ghaemi has said, “The depressive leader saw the events of his day with the clarity and realism lacking in saner, more stable men.”
In his 2012 book Leaders Make the Future, Bob Johansen builds on this idea to suggest that being normal may be a disadvantage in abnormal times — those more familiar with chaos are likely to have an advantage in managing the volatility, uncertainty, and complexity, and ambiguity.
Neither author is suggesting that we should encourage depression and mental illness. They are just describing situations that have occurred.
I relate this to performance under pressure.
Stress works to focus you on the problems at hand and develop clarity about what needs doing and where you want to go. Working under stress can be a creative way to achieve results quickly and effectively. You can see the world with greater clarity.
It is okay to worry a bit. It is okay to stress.
Don’t avoid the pressure — work with it.
By reaching greater clarity about your situation and where you want to go, you will be better positioned to find the pathways forward.
Over 40 years in senior management, I have seen people perform well under stress.
They embrace the chaos — they see it as it is — in much the same way as the mildly depressed individuals Ghaemi identifies.
They see futures that others miss.
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