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Staying calm under pressure tells a lot about a leader

Joyce E.A. Russell (the Senior Associate Dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business) writing in the New York Times, June 19, 2016, reminds us of what we can do to better control our emotions when life throws us a curveball? 

  • You need to have good self-awareness. What are your triggers that throw you off course? If you know these, you can better manage them when you see them coming at you.​
  • Try reframing what is happening. Recognize that anger or heightened emotions are natural with a setback and that your emotional brain is taking control of you. Remind yourself that anger or frustration is normal so that you can recast the feelings you are having.
  • Get some exercise to divert your mind away from your feelings. You could also listen to music, try to meditate or something else to put your energy elsewhere.
  • Put the issue in context. When thinking about the event, remind yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen as a result of this”? Often you will realize what’s a big deal now won’t be one later.
  • Write down your thoughts, especially if you are worried about things.
  • Watch your nonverbals. Try to keep the frown or scowl off your face. If you look miserable, you generally will feel miserable. Practice smiling if you can. 
  • You need to have a healthy sense of humor about life and not take yourself too seriously.
  • Admit to the mistakes you have made when handling a situation poorly and sincerely apologize. It is amazing how many leaders do not know how to do this.
  • Instead of constantly telling others you are overwhelmed or swamped, use more positive messaging to say that you will get through this. “I have a lot going on right now but I will get through it all; I always do.” Using more positive terms instead of the negative ones helps you to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel instead of the tunnel itself.