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Leaders have a Duty to Stay Calm

The true mark of a leader is how they react when things are messy, not when things are perfect.


Gregory could get stressed about anything! In this case, it was the seating arrangement at a regional sales meeting. Teams that were supposed to be sitting together were not. And Gregory was losing it. When I tried to calm him down, he said, “I am glad you can be so flip about everything Dave!” That’s when I replied, “A couple of years ago I was in the desert and people were shooting at me Gregory.  This seating arrangement is not that big a deal.”


Leaders have a Duty - a moral obligation - to stay in control of their emotions.  Granted there is a big difference between combat and seating charts, but the lesson is important no matter where you lead. A calm leader can inspire a team in the most difficult of circumstances. While the anxious and emotional leader will leave their people uncertain and fearful themselves.


We have all seen leaders get emotional when things don’t go as planned. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.” When our plans don’t work out, do we stay calm, or do we get anxious and react poorly? Are others inspired by our leadership in those moments, or do we pass our stress on to them?


In order to stay calm, leaders need to exercise Courage, Humility, and Positivity when others allow fear and negativity to take hold.  That is a leader’s moral obligation - their Duty.


Courage:  Acting despite perceived or actual risk.

Humility:  Believing and acting like “it’s not about me.”

Positivity: Displaying a positive and/or “can do” attitude, in all circumstances.

Duty:  Taking action based on my assigned tasks and moral obligations.


  • Take a deep breath and focus on the bigger picture.

  • What do my people need to see from me right now? Calm or stress?

  • Speak slowly and with clarity. 

  • Focus on solving the problem, not assigning blame.

  • Figure out where you are, and where you need to be.

  • Observe what is happening and ask thoughtful questions in order to gain more information.

  • Ask, “What is within my/our control?” and then control it.

  • My choices right now will be remembered and emulated by others later.

  • Make the best decision possible at that moment. But make a decision.

  • Take action and move forward even if that decision is imperfect.


The true mark of a leader is how they react when things are messy not when things are perfect. Leading when things are going well is easy.  Real leadership is displayed when your plans go haywire - when you do get hit in the face.  This is when a leader needs to exercise the Courage, Humility, Positivity and the Duty to fulfill their moral obligation to stay calm.



●      When have you seen a leader lose it when a plan falls apart?

●      What was the impact on the people around them in the short term and long term?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.


Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to

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