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Stress Control: Tough Leadership vs. Easy Does It

Tough leaders are usually seen as ogres. Theirexacting demands and high expectations add tostress levels. And their obsessive compulsivebehavior can have a negative effect on results ifthey don't understand how to control stress to getpositive results without serious negativereactions.

The same kind of leadership challenge can be foundin the Army. Management at all levels are facedwith the decision of "tough leadership" or "easydoes it" in preparing troops for combat and on thebattlefield.

Good military leaders work hard to balance theencouragment of positive stress with the debilitatingnegative stress they confront. The best leadersknow how to use positive stress to get the most outof their troops. And they know how to tone thingsdown to when negative stress threatens productivity.

The Army is fanatic about training officers andsergeants to take care of the troops. And thesewell-trained leaders are fanatic about carryingout their responsibilities. The soldiers in theircommand don't always realize why these leadersare so focused on having everything 100% ready --personnel, equipment, and training.

Even the most personable leaders are sometimesaccused of managing "by the book" or of being tooconcerned with their own personal recognition andpromotion. 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 welfareof their people. They want to complete the unit'smission with minimum personnel loss. Strictdiscipline, intensive and complete training, andnumerous inspections are essential for combatreadiness. Corporate leaders face the same typechallenges as they strive for efficient andeffective productivity.

Failing to enforce regulations, conduct detailedinspections, or practice combat readiness istantamount to dereliction of duty. The extraeffort that goes into intensive training programscreates additional stress in the unit, but lesspersistent commanders actually endanger theirtroops and their mission when they fail toschedule training that teaches troops how to dealwith the hazards they will face.

Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted torelax a corporate policy. "Easy does it" might bewhat your employees want to hear, but you mightalso be derelict in your responsibilities if yougive them what they want.

A little "tough leadership" can give your people andyour company the edge needed to compete on today'scorporate battlefield.

To get a free article and learn more aboutcontrolling the top 10 workplace stressors, senda blank email to

Dale Collie - professional speaker, formerUS Army Ranger, CEO, and a Fast Company top50 innovative leader. Author of "WinningUnder Fire." (McGraw-Hill)

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