I had a great illustration of leading under pressure recently.
Or, to be more honest, the need to do so.
I met a friend at a local restaurant for breakfast. The place is normally busy and this seemed like a typical day, but the obvious leader (person in charge) was in stress mode. Apparently, several of her employees hadn’t shown up for work that day. Well, not, apparently, she made that quite clear as she complained rather loudly throughout our visit.
Suddenly the place was swamped, which is not an unusual happening for this restaurant, and the young girl running the cash register was overwhelmed. She had to ask for help a couple of times. She was probably sorry she did…both times. She was making mistakes, but she seemed to make more the more agitated her boss became. Her boss continually “barked” back half answers, displayed constant frustration, and grumbled excuses about the lack of manpower. She never apologized. She just complained. Several customers displayed their equal frustrations. My friend and I wondered how we could best help, but, honestly I was afraid of her. We stayed, tried to be nice and patient, but leaving almost seemed the more helpful option.
I know firsthand the pressure of leading under stress. I’ve been there many times where it seems everything is going wrong at the same time. Honestly, however, from an outside perspective, the employee on the cash register would have performed better, less mistakes would have been made, customers would have been less tense and the overall environment would have improved, had the boss simply led through the moment, rather than overreacted.
It reminded me of an important leadership principle.
The way a leader reacts under pressure, determines how a team reacts under pressure.
If the leader remains calm under pressure. Keeps smiling. Pushes forward the best he or she can.
The team will likely remain calm. Keep smiling and push forward the best he or she can.
If the leader panics…everyone panics.
The role of a leader in times of stress may be more important than when times are good.
Leading in good times is easy (easier). When the world is stretched…when we are under-staffed, under-funded, overwhelmed, that’s when we most need leadership.
Here is your chance to help other leaders. Do you have any tips for remaining calm under pressure?