Personal Development for Leadership

There are some jobs where stress should be in the job description. These high pressure jobs are often found in higher levels of leadership where the stakes are higher and more jobs are at stake under our leadership. And there are other jobs that are simply high stress by nature.

Take the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), for example. Their job is to protect the data of their company. Sound simple? Not so much.

The complexity of security is on the rise as data breaches are becoming more common. A CISO has to be right 100% of the time and a hacker only needs to be right once.

A data breach can be catastrophic to the organization, which is why a CISO gets paid to be paranoid. A CEO gets paid to be pronoid, the more positive opposite of paranoid. Both are important. And both have to learn how to release the pressure of their high stress jobs. 

If you are in a position of high stress it’s important to understand the impact stress can have on your life. According to Healthline, “If your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health.

Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia.” 

Loving our job is not worth our longevity. We can love our jobs and learn how to turn stress hormones off to lessen the impact. Interestingly enough, there are some simple personal development for leadership techniques that help you prevent the effects of long term stress. 

Simple personal development for leadership techniques

There are some simple personal development for leadership techniques that help you prevent the effects of long term stress.

Take a short breath in and a long breath out

Andrew Huberman, an American neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, professes about techniques that leverage breath to control your heart rate.

A key sign of stress is a faster heart rate. To slow down your heart rate simply take a short breath in and a long exhale. You want your in breath to take half as long as the out breath.

Do this at least 6 times and you’ll also get the boost of feel-good neurochemicals. This technique is like slowing down gently in a car.

Take a long breath in, a micro breath and then a long breath out

Huberman also professes about a technique that he says works best when you want a quick shift of neurochemistry. This is great for high stress situations where you need a rapid response to growing intensity of stress.

The best part about using breath to control your accelerated heart rate is that you always have access to it. So if you are in a situation where the stress is about to take your breath away, instead of holding your breath as we instinctively do, take a long breath in.

Once you reach full lung capacity take a short quick breath in for about a second and then a long slow breath out. Repeat this several times until you feel your body slow down. This technique puts the brakes on anxiety and stress. 

Dip your face in ice water

We see celebrities splash water on their face when they’re stressed in the movies. Does it really work? According to clinical psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, “it will shock the system, which will divert your attention to something other than what’s causing the anxiety.

It could also be considered a threat to the system, so the system itself will go into preservation or survival mode and lower the heart rate, thus reducing anxiety. Basically, it’s a quick way to get your mental state back on track when you need it most.”

Do a quick round of exercise

Another simple and effective way to reduce stress is to move your body. Use a bathroom stall if you have to, but get your body moving. I love to do a few squats when I’m stressed because I can do it anywhere.

Exercise gives me something to do with anxiety. All emotions are energy in motion and stress is no different. By moving I’m literally moving the energy of the emotion in and through my body.

Running is my exercise of choice when I’m stressed. I simply grab my shoes, my running sound track and hit the trail. I get the benefit of all the neurochemicals associated with runners high and I get space to let my mind work the problem. 

Create a plan

I usually stress when I don’t have a plan of action for the problem at hand. One of my mentors told me when there’s a problem, we work the problem until we find a solution.

Give yourself some space and distance so you can work the problem. Dive into it and figure out what your next steps are and then create a plan of action.

Knowing what to do next feels good. Once you have your plan, socialize it with stakeholders and get the buy-in you need to execute. 


Managing stress is a major part of our job. It requires our attention and focus on personal development for leadership if we want to maintain our longevity. We get paid to manage problems and deal with people when they are not always at their best.

As such, we must be on our A-game and be able to make clear decisions when the going gets tough. Having a tool kit to reduce stress in high pressure moments will help you bring your best self to work and lead your teams through challenging times.