How Business Leaders Stay Cool Under Pressure

13 min read
Jan 18, 2022

There's no doubt about it... Every business leader feels pressure on their shoulders throughout their career.  

Whether it be from their own expectations, those of their peers, or quite frankly those of the entire business world, they nonetheless feel it!

And, it makes sense why: Top business leaders are usually very ambitious and enthusiastic people who want to make the world a better place.  As a result, they themselves and other people tend to set high expectations for them to make a difference in the world.

This begs the question: How do the top leaders stay so cool under pressure?  And not only that, but how do top leaders stay on top of their game while under pressure?

We're here to answer that exact question by sharing the techniques and strategies that top leaders use to stay cool AND use pressure to their advantage!

If you feel the pressure of expectations weighing down on your shoulders, you're not alone.  You are capable of not just not letting the pressure knock you down, but using it to become a more effective leader.  From here on out, you can consider pressure a good thing!


top business leaders


Feeling Pressure Is a Good Thing


Nothing is good or bad until you put a label on it, including feelings like the pressure to perform in business and live up to high expectations.

If you've been conditioned to believe that pressure is a bad thing, then start here to see how pressure can be a good thing if you choose to make it so.

Here are two key reasons why feeling pressure can be a great thing and benefit you as a leader:

  1. It shows that you care about what you're doing
  2. It shows that you know that you're a powerful person

First off, if you didn't care about what you were doing, then you wouldn't feel pressure.  For example, if you're playing a soccer game because your friend dragged you in but you hate soccer, then you certainly won't feel pressure to perform.  On the other hand, if you care deeply about soccer, then it goes to show that you care about what you are doing.

Moreover, feeling pressure is a sign that you're on the right path in life because you're doing something that you care deeply about.

Second and most importantly, if you never feel pressure to do well, then it's a good sign that you think pretty lowly of yourself.  For example, if you are about to take a math test but don't feel any pressure to get a good grade, then it's a good sign that you either don't care or don’t believe in yourself enough to do well.

And as you know, nothing good ever comes out of a situation where you don't believe in yourself or generally think very lowly of yourself.

Great leaders of the world, including the likes of Larry Page and Sheryl Sandberg, know that pressure necessarily isn't a bad thing.  And not only that, but feeling it is a good sign that you're on a path you're passionate about and are confident in your ability to succeed!


When Does Pressure Become a Bad Thing?


We humans love to put labels on things.  Even when you're unconscious of it, your brain is constantly labeling things as good, bad, or somewhere inbetween. 

That being said, if you don't consciously choose to see pressure as a potentially positive emotion, your brain will likely default to labeling it as a bad thing.

As a result, whenever you feel pressure, you'll feel negatively about it.  And when you feel negatively about a situation, you will take negative actions based on the emotion.  And when you take negative actions, you'll get negative results.

Bottom line: Unless you actively choose to see pressure as something to help lift you up instead of pull you down, the default effect is that you will be pulled down.  Why let that happen if you can stop it?


Here’s How Business Leaders Stay Cool Under Intense Pressure to Perform


Like we said, nothing is good or bad until you put a label on it, including the pressure to perform as a heavy-hitting leader in business.

That being said, feeling pressure to perform and live up to high expectations is a matter of choice!  On one hand you can see it as something weighing you down, and on the other hand you can see it as a chance to improve yourself.

Furthermore, here are the techniques and strategies that the most effective leaders in business use to stay cool under pressure AND use it to their advantage.  If you do these same things, you will become a more impactful leader and have better business results.


most powerful business leaders


1. They Embrace Not Knowing All the Answers


Nobody ever has all the answers.  Even the most successful business leaders like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors don't know everything there is to know about business success.  

And not only do they not have all the answers, but they also embrace not having all the answers!

Believe it or not , but there is serious power in not having all the answers.  Because, when you know that you don't know everything, you open yourself to gaining new knowledge.  And with more knowledge, your odds of achieving success increase.

On the other hand, if you think you already know everything there is to know about business and success, you close yourself off to learning anything new.  As a result, you miss out on valuable opportunities to gather new information and use it as power.

While it might feel like a lot of pressure at first, embracing the fact that you don’t have all the answers ultimately takes pressure off of your shoulders.  The moment you take a step back and realize that not having all the answers is power, the pressure begins to fade away.


There’s Power In Beginnership


If you're completely new to business, then you might feel an intense amount of pressure on your shoulders, because you believe that being a newbie makes you vulnerable.

However, the truth is that being a beginner and embracing beginnership empowers you!

Think of it like this... When you embrace beginnership, you open yourself up to the fact that you don't know everything.  As a result, you turn into a sponge soaking up information from every source around you.  With more information on hand, you immediately empower yourself!  

If you instead chose not to embrace beginnership, then you close yourself off from learning anything new and empowering yourself.

If you're new to business leadership, understand that you hold an immense amount of power.  The moment you realize that being a beginner puts you in a power position is the moment that pressure begins to come off of your shoulders.


Learning Along the Way


Top leaders in business accept the fact that they need to be life-long learners in order to be successful.

They understand that there's never a point at which they will have all the answers, so they commit themselves to constantly learning new things.

Changing your perspective from 'I need to know more before I get started' to 'I need to open myself up to learning along the way' immediately takes off the pressure that's resting on your shoulders, because you see that learning is a process and not an end game.

If you want to become an influential business leader and relieve pressures at the same time, commit to becoming a life-long learner and always staying open to new knowledge.


2. They Stop Talking and Start Listening


Have you ever witnessed a visibly nervous person talk on and on and on even when it didn’t make sense to keep babbling on?  Or, even worse, has that happened to you before?

If so, you were witnessing a primal human instinct to start talking as a way to defend against pressure!

When humans feel pressure from any kind of situation, our bodies internalize that pressure as a threat and instinctively begin to defend against it.  As irrational as it might seem, one of the body's most common defenses is to talk over people instead of listen.  Because, when you talk, it defends you from some other person coming out and attacking you.  Even if nobody has any reason to attack you, your body feels the need to defend itself from the pressure of the situation!

To fight against pressure and human instinct at the same time, top leaders fight the internal instinct to talk by listening instead.

While it is challenging to kick those internal instincts to the curve, you'll feel an immense amount of pressure lifted off of your shoulders once you simply choose to listen instead of talk.


Simply Stopping and Thinking Before Making a Move


When you were a kid, how many times did your parents tell you to stop and think before saying or doing anything?

While virtually everybody was told that before, few of us ever apply that wisdom, particularly when we feel pressure on our shoulders.

That being said, if you didn't learn that lesson before, it's time to learn AND apply it now!

The top leaders in business have impeccable self control: When they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, they take a deep breath and assess the situation before deciding to make any moves.

Thanks to that one deep breath that they take, they regain control of their emotions and have the self-control to sit back and take in information rather than talk their mouths off.

Whenever you feel pressure, the best thing you can do is stop, recognize what you're feeling, and choose to be in control over those feelings instead of letting your instincts get the best of you.


Asking Their Potential Customers More Questions


After getting in control of their emotions, top CEOs sit back and ask questions instead of talking.

Who do they ask questions to?

Everyone they can, including their potential customers, team members, and advisors.

Thanks to feeling pressure, they used the situation to their advantage by turning it into an opportunity to gain more knowledge.

As a result, they not only feel weight lifted off their shoulders, but they gain valuable knowledge that will help them become a better leader.


3. Turning Negative Pressure Into Positive Excitement


How many times when you've felt pressure before has somebody said something to you like, 'Just forget about it and move on'?

While the person telling you that was probably coming from a place of care, the truth is that you can't simply forget about pressure.  Not only that, but forgetting about it puts you at a disadvantage!


Think of it like this: Pressure is simply energy, and energy cannot be created or destroyed.  But, one form of energy can be turned into another form of energy.  Changing energy from one state into another is better known as energy transmutation.

That being said, instead of trying to get rid of negative pressure energy, transmute it into positive energy, such as excitement!  In the end, you'll gain from having positive energy instead of taking a hit from the negative pressure or trying to get rid of it.

Harness the potential of the pressure you feel by turning it into something positive that pushes you forward.


Energy Transmutation


Some of the most infamous business and thought leaders in the world credit energy transmutation for their success.  In fact, Napoleon Hill, author of the infamous business book, Think and Grow Rich, dedicated an entire chapter to the subject in his book!

Here's more on how it works: The different emotions you feel, including pressure, joy, and sadness, are all different types of energy.  And, as you already know, you can't create or destroy energy, but you can transform it into another type of energy.  

How do you transform one type of energy into another type of energy?

You simply need to re-label the energy and think of it as a positive.  For example, the next time you feel pressure sneaking up on you, say to yourself, 'This isn't pressure, this is positive excitement and adrenaline here to help me'!  

That being said, if you feel pressure to perform, consider it a blessing!  Because, unlike the people who apparently don't feel pressure, you have the opportunity to turn that negative energy into something positive that benefits you.

More specifically, some positive energy that will ultimately make you a more effective business leader.


Rising to the Occasion


Have you ever wondered how top athletes are able to hit their best performances while under immense pressure at major competitions?  

For example, a gymnast spends years preparing for an event in a competition that literally lasts only a few seconds, but is somehow able to manage the pressure when it matters most.

This is better known as rising to the occasion.  It's about timing out your energy to channel it and use it to your advantage just at the right moment.

For example, when you are about to make a sales pitch to a potential customer, you need to be prepared to rise to the occasion instead of succumbing to the pressure.

That being said, you should practice transforming your negative energy into positive energy on a daily basis.  Because, just like every skill, energy transmutation takes practice!

If you practice often enough, you will be able to transform and utilize your energy exactly where and when it's needed most.


4. They Don’t Take On the Business Journey Alone


The whole solopreneur game will only take you so far.  If you really want to become a great leader and kick pressure to the curve, you need a killer team to back you up.

To put it simply: Team members are there to help support one another.  When the going gets tough, it's much easier to keep moving forward when you have great people to lean on.

Remember, pressure is simply energy.  And, just how you can transform it, you can also divide it up between people to make it easier on a single individual.

The best CEOs stay cool under pressure with the help of a great team!


CEO Coaching


There is no better person in the world to help you manage the pressures of business than a CEO coach.  

Yes, having great employees, a fantastic board of directors, and other chief executives is great, but a CEO coach is still the best person to help you overcome pressure and use it to your advantage.


Because, a CEO coach is either a current or former chief executive officer themself.  Therefore they know exactly what it's like to stand in your shoes, and can offer expertise based on direct experience.

If leaders like Bill Gates of Microsoft have taken advantage of transformational CEO coaching to become their best selves, then that certainly speaks to the positive effects it has!


Leaning On Team Members


Co-founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, once said, 'Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high'.

That being said, your team members aren't just there to help you build a better business.  Rather, they're also there to help lift you up when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

And at the end of the day, if your team members have brilliant business minds but don't offer the kind of support that a team is supposed to provide, then you've got the wrong people on your side.

To help stay cool under pressure, lean on your team members for support.


5. They Do the Thing That Fulfills Them the Most


This is simple: If you are doing something in life that doesn't make you feel fulfilled, then the odds that you succumb to pressure are significantly higher than if you are doing something that does make you feel fulfilled.

When the going gets tough, it's not necessarily difficult to keep moving forward when you're fulfilled doing what you're doing.  Because, when you love what you do, you have that internal flame inside of you that helps keep you going during tough times.

On the flip side, if you aren't fulfilled doing what you're doing, it's not only easy to succumb to pressure, but you're probably happy to do it because you don't have to keep pushing forward doing something that you don't enjoy.

So, if the path that you're on in life doesn't make you feel fulfilled, then it's inevitable that you'll eventually succumb to pressure or at least be miserable during the process.  Instead of trying to overcome pressure, you'd be more successful by simply choosing to follow a different path!

The infamous inventor and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs once said, 'The only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven't found it, keep looking.  Don't settle'.

Entrepreneurs who don't let pressure get to them are the ones who love what they're doing the most.


Enthusiasm = Fulfillment


What do we mean by the word fulfillment?

To feel fulfilled doing the thing you love is to feel enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is the height of joy.

You will know that you're doing something that gives you enthusiasm when the hard times only make you more motivated to work even harder.

Think of it like this... If you're a pro soccer player and are completely enthusiastic about the game, then losing a match will only make you want to work harder.  On the other hand, if you aren't completely enthusiastic about soccer, then losing will likely make you want to quit.

Now, just because you feel enthusiasm doesn't mean you'll be totally happy doing what you do all the time.  The truth is that you will certainly have times where you have to do things you don't want to do or make sacrifices for business.  

But, feeling bouts of unhappiness or feeling the strain of challenges doesn’t mean that you aren’t enthusiastic about your work.  Instead, it just means you’re human!

If you've got that internal flame alive inside of yourself, then you're on the right path, and standing up against pressure will be easy for you.  But, if you don't have that internal flame, then overcoming the pressure will feel nearly impossible.


Who are famous business leaders?


Final Thoughts On How Business Leaders Stay Cool Under Pressure


Bottom line: Every business leader, from Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway to Tim Cook of Apple and Bob Iger of Walt Disney, feels pressure to knock business out of the park.

While sometimes challenging to manage, feeling pressure can be a real positive thing if you choose to make it so!

Moreover, you can choose to either let pressure overcome you or use it to rise up and become a more effective leader.  It's not a matter of circumstances, but a matter of you empowering yourself to use pressure to your advantage.

Are you ready to step up and use pressure to become a better leader?

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