Horses racing blurred

M2M (Ministry to Ministries) shares a word from Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute about the benefit of healthy pressure. Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute is a partner ministry that is all about stretching and blessing the next generation of leaders, for the glory of God.

Fred refused to accept ideas at face value, processing everything. Challenging the status quo sharpened his mind. One of the examples is his view of stress. When the modern culture recommended the total reduction of stress, he worked through it identifying positive and negative stress. His thoughts helped others understand how best to handle pressure.

Appreciating Tension

Successful leaders learn to appreciate tension. I am convinced positive stress is a wonderful thing. Where else would we get the energy to carry out our responsibilities? Even creation shows us the value. Botanists talks about turgor which is the pressure which keeps flower stems upright. Droopy blooms have suffered the loss of this healthy pressure. Without tension there is inadequate ambition to achieve success. Couch potatoes rarely lead.

Stress must be managed, but that is the point: manage, don’t eliminate. Learning to appreciate it, not fear it is the key to productive use of pressure. As a consultant I once asked a young employee as I studied the client’s company. “How long have you been working for this company?” He answered with “Ever since the boss threatened to fire me!” He definitely lacked the fire-in-the-belly necessary for leadership. He was wilted.

I sometimes hear wives complain about how tired their husbands are at night. I know I am biased, but my experience with leaders (male and female) is that living with tension is part of the price paid for success. I am thankful for Mary Alice who has always supported me. My reply to the desire for a non-tension environment is quite simple: “you can’t have the earnings of a race horse with the placidity of a mule.”

A psychiatrist friend of mine (social, not professional, mind you) was sent to Guadalcanal to interview a variety of soldiers. Some had performed heroic deeds; others had shrunk from battle, even deserting. His research was to discern the reason for the behavior. He told me both groups actually were motivated by the same thing: fear. However, those seen as heroes ran forward and the non-heroes ran backward. The same thing is true in business or ministry leadership. We either face our problems as challenges, or we draw into the shell of inertia.

Our assignment is to understand and use positive tension as a tool for productivity. Stress by itself is not naturally bad. We need to capture the value in order to make forward progress. Eliminate all stress? No. Manage and appreciate tension. Definitely.

This week think about: 1) Am I correctly categorizing the stressors in my life? 2) Where am I running backwards? 3) How can I demonstrate capable management of stress?

Words of Wisdom: “You can’t have the earnings of a race horse with the placidity of a mule.”

Wisdom from the Word: “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NET Bible)

To read more from Breakfast With Fred, go to