…mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.
“She accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity.“
“His sense of humor allowed him to face adversaries with equanimity.”
The demanding situations and crises you face over the course of your adult life are likely to be the moments that define who you are as a leader and, potentially, as a person. How you act in these scenarios impacts how you will be remembered by people in and outside of your work life.
Picture yourself in one of your leadership roles—in your community, at home, or at work. How do you know that you were, or are, a “leader” in that role? Leaders often have titles, but not necessarily. A good leader can be identified by their qualities—ranging from the ability to influence and inspire others to knowing how to act decisively.
While these traits are important in your daily role as a leader, they are especially critical during times of stress.
We’ve all see people who exhibit amazing grace under pressure, who remain calm in a crisis—many are later called “heroes.” And then there are those leaders who do not rise to the occasion, and can, in fact, make matters worse.
For example, when a boss loses it, the people around them are more likely to make mistakes, have lower morale, and are less likely to quickly resolve the problem at hand.
VitalSmarts, a foremost leadership training company, has research that shows a manager’s ability or inability to communicate in high stakes, stressful situations directly impacts team performance. How would people around you rate you when the situation is high-stress? A survey of over 1,300 people revealed that many leaders fall short. Specifically, when under stress:
- 53% are more closed-minded and controlling than open and curious.
- 45% are more upset and emotional than calm and in control.
- 45% ignore or reject rather than listen or seek to understand.
- 43% are more angry and heated than cool and collected.
- 37% avoid or sidestep rather than be direct and unambiguous.
- 30% are more devious and deceitful than candid and honest.
David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, says this study indicates just how impactful a leader’s communication style really is.
“No one works in isolation. When under pressure, our actions have enormous power to tip the scales for good or bad,” says Maxfield. “When we react poorly, we don’t just hurt others’ feelings or egos, we hurt their results—we impact their ability to perform.”
When a leader practices good communication in high-stakes situations—is calm, collected, candid, curious, direct and willing to listen—their teams are not only happier and more engaged, but they tend to:
- Meet quality standards 56% more of the time
- Act in ways that benefit customers 56% more of the time.
- Meet deadlines 47% more of the time.
- Improve morale 47% more of the time.
- Improve workplace safety 34% more of the time.
- Achieve budget 25% more of the time.
“Our ability to stay in dialogue when stakes are high is not dependent on genetic or inherent factors,” says Maxfield. “These are skills anyone can learn and adopt to not only be more personally effective and influential, but to better lead a team to success.”
STRATEGIES FOR LEADING UNDER PRESSURE
- Wait to Act
A leader is someone who responds to a situation calmly and with a well-thought-out plan. Before you jump headfirst into problem-solving, take a deep breath and pause to collect your thoughts and assess the situation with a clear mind.
In a crisis, it’s important to take a deep breath and remain as calm as possible—especially as the stakes rise or others’ emotions flare up.
- _____________________For the most practical, extraordinarily useful strategies and practices to help you attain equanimity and become an outstanding leader (even in a crisis), I highly recommend the following two books. They are life-changing, in my estimation. Let me know what you discover.