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April 25, 2014

How Successful Leaders Keep Calm Under Pressure

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Being a leader – whether your business is the size of a Fortune 500 or a mom-and-pop store – is stressful. At some point you are bound to face a difficult decision in the midst of a conflict, or will otherwise deal with mounting pressure and expectations. For some leaders, this pressure can be too much. For the most successful in the pack, keeping calm under pressure is virtually second nature.

 Avoid Speculation 

One way to stay cool under pressure is to avoid the toxic question: “what if?” What ifs are the stuff of nightmares and they have the ability to steer you away from the important aspects of a decision. By viewing speculation as an unnecessary distraction, you will be better able to pick a path and follow it with determination. These “what if” questions are primarily a distraction.

Be Optimistic…. But Cautiously So 

By choosing a path with conviction in the face of pressure, you send the signal as a leader for employees to feel confident in your direction. Have the same optimism about your decisions. Have faith that you are doing the right thing, but don’t be so sure of yourself that you can’t hear valid objections or concerns. Cautious optimism sends the message that you know how to handle this situation, but also expresses your awareness of the reality that sometimes it can be difficult to determine what to do.

 Be Visionary 

When high pressure situations strike, the successful leader steps forward with creativity, imagination, determination, and confidence to assert their conception of what comes next. Great leaders are always imagining the possibilities for their company, so that when they arrive at a crossroads, they already know what the right path is and what lies ahead. These are the characteristics of a visionary. Visionary leaders are several steps ahead in every situation, which mitigates the effects of pressure.

See Order in Chaos 

Sometimes when a challenging situation presents itself, it appears as though there are a dozen different possibilities and problems to be confronted, all spiraling and weaving, making the problem difficult to approach. The scene can seem like one of chaos. Leaders who respond well under pressure are those who can see order in chaos. One characteristic of those who excel at this process is being able to discern patterns and trends among the interwoven parts. These leaders can quickly tease apart a challenge and see to the core of its organization in a way many others can’t, making stressful situations much less overwhelming.

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