Over the past couple weeks, I have described how leadership roles encounter a level of stress and pressure that is a substantial multiple of the challenges met by those in non-leadership roles (click here to read). I have also looked at how incidental stress can contribute to impacting our resilience quotient (click here to read).
Stress is a tough task-master; as a general overview, I have pointed out that there are two very broad categories: Incidental stress and cumulative stress.
As mentioned previously, incidental stress can be easier to spot. It is characterized by specific unusual events that cause one’s stress level to quickly spike. Cumulative stress, by contrast, can be a bit harder to detect – at least until its impact bites us.
Like pebbles placed in an initially empty backpack, cumulative stress builds up over time and can eventually become unbearable – even back-breaking. Smaller incidents – like pebbles, as well as periodic significant events – like larger rocks – can add up over time. Unrecognized as they occur due to their individual lesser impact, the cumulative effect is real.
The graphic depiction above illustrates the difference between incidental and cumulative stress. The point here is not to fully explain or provide an authoritative diagnostic. I have previously clarified that I do not have the appropriate academic or medical background to do so.
Rather, the goal is to sound the alert. Leadership takes courage – and it is stressful. In forthcoming posts, I will look at some of the tools that exist to help those of us who assume leadership responsibilities deal with stressors - and how we can seek to maintain a heathy level of resilience over the long haul.
As I have said, doing so is not automatic, which is one more reason why it takes courage, to lead.