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Leaders are Calmers

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs” Rudyard Kipling

In stressful or crisis situations, your people will take their emotional cues from you. If you are calm, they will be calmed. If you are emotional, agitated or excitable, they will be too. For football fans, think of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady coming into the huddle with less than a minute to play and down 4 points and saying with steely calm, “we’ve got this.” Conversely, think of the rookie or backup quarterback coming into that same huddle with eyes wide and wild. Same situation but different leader and probably a different outcome.

A leader who is calm in a crisis conveys that they’ve been in these situations before and that things are rarely as dire as they first seem. The “leader as calmer” knows their team must “work the problem” – breaking it down into its elements (What do we know? What do we need to find out? Who is responsible for working each part? What is our desired end-state?) rather than being overwhelmed by the situation as a whole.

Unfortunately, I have seen far too many people who equate “raising the bar” of performance with “raising the temperature” (the stress levels of their people) by assigning blame in the moment. The result is people being more afraid of them than they are motivated to solve the problem. There will be time for a post-mortem and lessons-learned after the situation is resolved. Raising the temperature by introducing additional and unneeded stress to an equation does not elevate the team’s performance…ever.

Raise the performance bar when the seas are calm and the sun is shining. Get the right people in the right places, give them the tools they need, give them your vision of success and set high expectations. When the storm inevitably comes, trust that your people are ready and capable. And remain calm.

You can raise the bar without raising the temperature.


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