I went through some incredibly disruptive events during my corporate career – and it’s fair to say that some of them pushed me to the edge of my personal capacity. My pattern in times of extreme turmoil was to neglect my health.
I’d replace my 5:00 AM run with another hour of sleep, and my go-to coping mechanism was just to drink more alcohol. I put all my energy into trying to keep my head screwed on straight, and absorb the pressure of the environment – for me and my people.
Obviously, this comes at a cost, although I’m now much more comfortable and skilled at retaining some semblance of balance in times of extreme turmoil and upheaval.
Despite the toll, when I look back I am so grateful that I was in those situations. I never felt that there was anything I couldn’t ultimately handle, and the accelerated learning that I took from each situation really turbocharged my career.
I couldn’t have achieved anywhere near what I did if I was leading people in a warm, stable, and comfortable environment. I came to really love and embrace major change. I relished the challenge of being the one person in the room who could be relied upon to stay calm, remain impartially rational, and keep my people focused and productive.
My observation on the back of all of this is that this is a differentiator for really successful executives. They don’t fear change, and they don’t recoil from challenge, conflict, or adversity. They embrace it. But don’t forget, there’s a big difference between a smart executive and a great leader.
Your goal is to be both.
Take a moment to think about how you react to major upheaval:
- How do you feel inside?
- What do you project to the people around you?
- What do the other people who aren’t in your camp see?
- Do they experience you as a reliable, stable, and trustworthy individual?
Leading through any major event requires a level of resilience and self-control. It requires an attitude and approach that rises above the noise of our human fear, our anger, our frustration, and even our greed.
It demands that we have grace under pressure: that state you achieve when your outward projection of calm is completely congruent with the inner calm that you’re feeling… because you know you’re going to be able to handle anything that’s thrown at you.