Leadership Secrets for Keeping Your Cool in the Hot Spot


An effective leader always appears to be in control.

Most people agree with that statement—but we often latch on to “always” and gloss over “appears.” But appearance is the secret that top corporate leaders already know—it’s not what you’re actually thinking or feeling about a tough situation that matters.

It’s all about the appearance you’re giving your team.

Composure under stress at all times is critical to effective leadership, since the appearance of panic will eventually undermine confidence.

Stressful situations and leadership challenges are bound to happen, but it’s how you handle things when they actually do happenand they will—that separates the wheat from the chaff and successful leaders from floundering managers.

Here’s your game plan:

1. Anticipate problems.

Be sure to have a backup plan for that big presentation so you can move smoothly to Plan B when the projector shorts out or your PowerPoint slides malfunction.

Rehearse without technology and have handouts ready in case something goes wrong.

Learn how to command a room with your presence instead of with visual aids, just like businesspeople of years past. Think of everything that could possibly go wrong—and plan for it instead of fearing it.

2. Understand problems.

If a problem arises in the office, make sure you understand it before responding to it.

As police officers are fond of saying, there are three sides to every story—what he said, what she said, and the truth.

Be sure to consider all sides of a problem before making a decision, even if that means taking time to calmly think it over. Avoid knee-jerk reactions.

3. Keep your emotions in check.

A cool-headed leader is exactly that—cool headed.

Guard your emotions from your employees, whether you’re feeling unbridled rage, anxiety, fear, or terror. Get control of yourself first before trying to control, lead, and influence others.

4. Embrace problems.

Adversity is not necessarily bad.

Consider a problem or an obstacle your chance to shine as a leader, and realize that problems others regard as insurmountable are, in fact, opportunities in disguise.

5. Propose solutions.

Be Solution Sam or Sally, not the Goodbye Girl.

In times of adversity, your team wants to count on you for strength and guidance. They’ll find courage and inspiration if you already have several courses of action ready and waiting and will be excited to embrace them. But they’ll lose faith if they see you waiting for solutions to come down from the sky.

Effective problem-solving techniques command attention, and they identify you as a leader who is capable of additional responsibility and ripe for a promotion. Being a leader doesn’t mean you won’t be afraid, and it doesn’t mean you’ll have the answers all the time.

Remember: true courage and leadership means fear under fire and charging forward anyway.

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