How to Lead Under Pressure and Remain Calm

All of us face pressure—every working professional, regardless of position, profile, title, experience, or gender. Pressure is real and it’s often a constant.

It may take the form of having so much to do that you don’t even know where to begin. Or it may come from burdensome expectations imposed on you, or disappointment with the progress you’ve made on something.

Whether the pressure is coming from yourself, from those above you in your organization, from your teammates, or from the situation itself, it’s stressful. Ongoing pressure can be harmful to your sense of well-being and even your physical health.

A recent study revealed that 80 percent of employees complain of experiencing pressure at work, and nearly 60 percent want to quit their jobs because of high stress levels.

We all know that leadership is difficult and comes with a certain amount of pressure built in. And those who are called to leadership are often the ones who drive and pressure themselves. But the leaders who are most effective are those who know how to deal with pressure in healthy and productive way.

Here are some of the thoughts I share with the top leaders I coach about leading under pressure:

Manage yourself. Learn to build your internal capacity to cope with pressure by pivoting from negative to positive, from stress to coping, and from panic to assurance. Only when you can manage yourself under pressure can you manage manage others in the same situation.

Be purpose-driven. When pressure is high, one of the best ways to combat stress is to tap into the sense of purpose that fuels your drive. Attaching meaning to your work will give you the power to push forward. It was my mentor Victor Frankl who said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.’”

Control your expectations. High-pressure situations sometimes develop because of unrealistic expectations—whether your own or those of others. The best leaders know how to manage expectations—they know when to say yes and how to say no.

Stay focused and alert. Even with tremendous pressure in every direction to get things done, if you keep your mind firmly focused you can complete the task at hand. And if you can go on to bring that same focus to completing the next task, and the next, in time you will find relief from the pressure and stress of having too many things to get done.

Forgo perfectionism. As a leader, there’s a good chance you believe you have to be perfect. But you can’t, of course. And the faster you let go of trying, the less pressure you will feel. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for progress and aim for excellence. It’s a vicious cycle: perfectionism leads to procrastination, and procrastination adds to your pressures. Learn to let it go.

Follow the 80-20 rule. Faced with a problem, most people spend about 80 percent of their time and energy dwelling on the problem. Instead, devote 80 percent to a solution and 20 percent to the problem. When you turn it around, you’ll likely find you’re less stressed and more productive.

Set clear boundaries. When you’re a leader, everyone wants a piece of you. There are those who think you’re the only one who can answer the question, solve the problem, save the day. Be daring and firm about setting up boundaries. Having the courage to be good to yourself even when you risk disappointing others makes you a healthier person—and a better leader. Healthy boundaries are not walls; they’re gates that allow you to alleviate pressure.

Keep things simple. The most effective leaders know how to boil things down. They understand their priorities and work only on the things that really matter. When you return to basics you can keep things uncomplicated and less stressful. It’s that simple.

Deal with ambiguity. Any high-pressure position or situation often comes with a degree of uncertainty. Teach yourself to become more adaptable, to respond to events and ambiguity objectively rather than becoming overwhelmed by your emotional vulnerabilities. Focus on what you have to do and get it done instead of being overwhelmed what you don’t know.

Delegate what you can. As a leader, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You don’t have to control or micromanage. The most productive leaders know how to delegate and let someone else get that task or project to done.

Create a longer-term perspective. Leaders know the crisis of the moment can make us all feel that the world’s about to end. But the best leaders, the most productive, understand that most issues will takes care of themselves in time, and they focus on dealing with the issues in the present that will serve them best.

Lead from within: Pressure can be a useful catalyst in your leadership if you can use it to challenge and stretch your limit to go beyond so purposeful things can be achieved but it only works if you stay calm.

N A T I O N A L    B E S T S E L L E R


What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

buy now


Additional Reading you might enjoy:


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.


    27. Feb, 2018

    Thank you. Perfect timing.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Rajesh Menon

    05. Apr, 2018

    Superb Article Lolly. Please keep spreading the wisdom.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Taaka Awori

    23. Apr, 2018

    Fully agree Lolly. I have also encouraged my coaching clients to practice a high level of self-compassion at these moments. We tend to be very hard on ourselves when under pressure and this only makes things worse. “Be good to you” I tell them, you need all the support you can give yourself.

    Reply to this comment
  4. preetisagar

    05. Aug, 2022

    Lead pressure is when you’re leading the team and don’t get a proper response from your team, but still this blog is really helping a lot. Love to read more

    Reply to this comment


  1. How to Effectively Lead Under Pressure June 28, 2022

    […] If you’re a leader, it’s only natural that, at one time or another, you will face adversity. Pressure as a leader is a natural occurrence, though it doesn’t negate how it makes us feel. You may feel pressure because of the overwhelming list of expectations placed on you or even disappointment with your progress on a project. However, there are things that you can do to help you effectively lead under pressure.  […]

  2. Humble leaders: DiSC SC or CS style leadership – DiSC Profiles January 3, 2023

    […] How to Lead Under Pressure and Remain Calm, Lolly Daskal […]

Leave a Reply