How to convert stress into success

84 CEOs from around the world, whose firms range from SMEs to global multinationals, have spoken to a seasoned leadership advisor about their biggest challenges in their first months as CEO and how they were able to convert stress into success.


Roger Jones is a coach and leadership advisor to CEOs and their executive teams. He is a graduate of Insead’s Executive Master in Consulting and Coaching for Change himself. In his research he queried CEOs from around the world about their biggest challenges to help others overcome their own. On Insead’s Knowledge website the leadership advisor summarizes these challenges. He has filtered out seven problems that were most frequently mentioned:

  • Feeling trapped and viewing themselves as slaves to the business. Their huge sense of obligation meant that most were unable to ‘switch off’ even at weekends.
  • Feeling dazed and confused, even sceptical, and not knowing whom to believe. A consistent theme of “Who tells me the truth?” came through.
  • Lacking credibility and wondering how to earn the respect of their team.
  • Dealing with huge self-doubt: Some new CEOs fear they are not up to the job and lack the skills and mindset needed to be successful.
  • Feeling lonely.
  • Getting addicted to the job: For many, the sense of power and control becomes addictive.
  • Sacrificing home life: The job addiction can mean a complete lack of work-life balance.

Jones does not only list these challenges, he also provides the strategies to transition from job stress to job success. The coping strategies that CEOs used to help neutralize the stress are according to the expert:

  • Scheduling time to think.
  • Upgrading your leadership: Your leadership and communication style may need to be refreshed.
  • Making your top team ‘click’: New CEOs ensure they have the right team in place.
  • Checking the organisational reality: CEOs find it key to decode what people are telling them.
  • Building inner confidence: As a new CEO, you will do things you haven’t done before and you will face high expectations.
  • Hiring an external coach: Many CEOs had the support of an external coach when starting in their role.
  • Staying balanced: To prevent their CEO role from taking over their life, clients imagined they are 100 years old and looking back on their proudest moments. Time spent with family features prominently, far ahead of any CEO accomplishments.