Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

September 2000
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Change and Stress

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Stress is directly related to change. Of course, not all stress is bad. Life without stress would be life without change, which would be life without growth, which would be life without life! Without at least some change and stress, we will go nowhere.

On the other hand, if there is too much change and stress, things start to break down. High levels of stress contribute to a myriad of physical, emotional, spiritual and relational problems. Moreover, when stress is pushed to the extremes, burnout occurs. If you take a small sapling and bend it over, it will straighten back up again when you let go. But if you bend it until it breaks, it cannot straighten back up. This is a picture of burnout. If we continuously change and change and change, eventually something inside may snap. When this happens, healing comes slowly, and, scarred and weary, we may not ever get back to the same level of enthusiasm, passion and innocence we once enjoyed.

The following are some ways that leaders can control change and blunt stress:

1. Slow the rate of change. If your constituents are already stressed out, slow down! Leaders must know the state of their people. They must realistically assess their constituents’ needs and abilities. Don’t try to push your people faster than they can move.

2. Change less often. The more people are required to change, the more stress they will endure. Is the change really necessary? Is it really God’s will? Will it really produce the desired results? Change for its own sake is a sure formula for corporate disaster.

3. Ignore the “band-wagons.” Just because an idea is new, or because “everyone’s doing it,” doesn’t mean you have to do it! Resist change merely for the sakes of novelty or conformity.

4. Don’t change everything at once. When change is necessary, most people can benefit from having areas of no change where stability and predictability are assured. These “stability zones” will bring corporate security and anchorage.

5. Build caring networks. Nurturing friendships will bring strength and affirmation to a changing organization.

6. Limit the effect of negative people. Negative people can be draining and greatly increase the stress of change. As much as possible, try to limit their influence in the organization and their exposure to its people.

7. Identify and reduce additional stressors. As much as possible, try to limit stress to only what is absolutely necessary.

8. Encourage your constituents to exercise, eat right, rest and have fun occasionally. In the midst of difficult organizational change, these can be the first activities to fall by the wayside, but these disciplines must be maintained for the personal health of all concerned.

9. Rejoice in the Lord! God did not promise us a stress-free life, but He does give us peace and joy in the midst of the storms. Jesus said,

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world(John 16:33)

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