Leadership Under Fire

By Doug Brown

For many corporate leaders, the last 18 months have been an exercise in living through stress. The situation concerning the pandemic changes day-to-day, and business needs must adjust on a dime. The uncertainty of it all adds to the pressure. Overall, it has been an actual test of leadership.

Leadership Under Fire

Demanding situations and crises faced by business leaders over their careers can define who they are-- as a leader and person. It is common for leaders to react poorly in high-stress situations. Research shows that 53% percent become more closed-minded and controlling instead of open and curious. Another 43% become angrier and more heated.

Since no one works in isolation, these behaviors negatively impact direct reports and teams. When leaders react poorly, it affects morale and team performance, leading to mistakes and missed deadlines, resulting in lost customers.

Effective leaders, even when under stress, maintain poise under pressure and can adapt to various situations. Here are a few tricks leaders use to deal with stress.

  • Stay calm. See the situation as a challenge, not a crisis.
  • Focus on the goal. Roll with the situation and seek the best practical path under the new circumstances.
  • Have a positive mental attitude. Demonstrate realistic optimism. Acknowledge that sometimes things go wrong. Whenever that occurs, expect to deal with setbacks and benefit from lessons learned.
  • Step back. Manage stress by temporarily removing yourself, physically or mentally, from the situation.
  • Prepare for the unexpected. Rather than worrying about what might happen, be prepared for it.