Keep Calm…and Be A Leader

keep calmA few years ago I had the opportunity to hear Rudy Giuliani speak at a national conference I attended.  While our politics don’t have a lot in common, I found his remarks at the time compelling. The topic? Remaining calm in the face of crisis.

The most memorable part of his speech was a story about advice he received from his father as a young boy.  “Son” he said, “If you are ever in a building and there’s a fire, be the calmest person in the room.”

Be the calmest person in the room.

As I ‘m sure you can imagine, this advice from his father, shared with him as a young boy, came roaring back to him on that fateful day in September, 2001.

Be the calmest person in the room.

This message resonated with me at the time, and still does, for a pretty simple reason… I’m not very good at being the calmest person in the room.

I’m an emotional guy. I admit it. Not the yell-and-scream type (thankfully), more the wear-the-heart-on-my-sleeve guy. I’m aware that much of the time my emotions, frustrations, and stresses are visible to those around me, for better or for worse.  I recognize however that maintaining an even keel is a critical component of leading others and it’s something I’ve worked on over the years. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was.

I firmly believe that teams that are resilient- that weather change and the unexpected with grace and aplomb- are most often led by emotionally intelligent leaders who don’t get too high or too low in the moment. If you want your team to meet stress with grace, you must first show them how. If you want them to respond to demanding times with a drive to overcome, you must do it first. This doesn’t happen in any singular grand gesture but in the way you carry yourself through the small, ongoing interactions and challenges you face week to week. Be a leader that sets a tone for how to handle life’s trials and tribulations…

Be the calmest person in the room.

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