5 questions with Dr. Srini Pillay

Stress and anxiety are inherent in most leadership positions. Can they be managed? And if they can, is this an ability you can develop and improve?

Yes. But there are two kinds of stress: eustress (the good kind that keeps you on task) and distress (the bad kind that disturbs your functioning.) We now have many research-proven methods to change your brain to lower your stress levels, and they range from the more basic techniques like reframing and mindfulness to more advanced techniques like building existential confidence.


What would you say to professionals in leadership positions who view being stressed or anxious as a sign of weakness, something they should be ashamed of? 

There is absolutely no need to be ashamed. Our brains are wired to process fear above all else, so it’s expected that our default would be anxiety, biologically. Also, some stress is good, so it’s not weakening. And even when stress and anxiety are debilitating, remember that anxiety disorders are the commonest disorders in the world. Rather than being ashamed, know that there are many proven ways to reduce both anxiety and stress.


Too many professionals realize that they are heading towards burnout when it is too late. Can you talk a bit about some of the warning signs that a burnout is coming and what can we do to avoid it?

Yes. This is very common. High functioning people notice their burnout later. They are too busy trying to cope. Some common early warning signs are:

  • you find that you are smiling inauthentically
  • not working out
  • not eating healthily
  • feeling easily fatigued
  • feeling increasingly cynical
  • feeling ineffective

To avoid this, focus on authenticity rather than fake positivity; make working out a routine or make it easy to schedule; keep healthy snacks around you; use “unfocus” techniques to restore brain energy.


One of the topics of your presentation in our executive program is related to why the brain matters in business. Can you talk a bit about the main ideas behind this concept?

Businesses are made by people. People have brains. So, it stands to reason that if we managed our brains more effectively, we could manage our businesses better. Also, research from McKinsey & Co. has demonstrated that building organizational mindset shifts will increase the chances of transformation by 4.4X compared to not instituting these shifts. Since the brain manages your mindset, understanding your mindset can help you change your brain.


What are some of the key insights you believe that participants in the event will gain from the modules you will be facilitating?

  • How to build confidence
  • How to manage anxiety and stress
  • How to manage uncertainty
  • How to manage change effectively
  • How to become unstuck
  • How to become more creative and productive
  • How to build emotional intelligence
  • How to synchronize with teams
  • How to enhance possibility thinking


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