“Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.”


Staying calm in times of high stress is one of those leadership skills that amazes me. Watching someone react to a high pressure situation in a calm and balanced way is truly inspiring. Maybe I’m impressed because I am naturally excited, prone to get agitated and raise my voice in stressful situations. I know it doesn’t work and it’s a bad habit but I still manage to do it.

The problem with getting excited and not staying calm is that it exacerbates an already highly charged and stressful situation. If you’ve ever been in an emergency room as a patient, you’ll notice that unlike on TV, most staff don’t exhibit any stress. They are calm and measured but fast in everything they do. If they can stay calm when life and death is on the line, why shouldn’t business people be able to stay calm when revenue targets are missed, when customer returns increase or when costs rise unexpectedly. After all, it’s not as if anyone is going to die.

Try this at work:

You’ve probably been told to step back from stressful situations, breather deeply and modulate your voice. Easy to say, not that easy to do. Instead, the next time you find yourself in one of those situations, just imagine the worst thing that can happen.

It’s sort of like imagining the audience naked when you have to give a speech or your boss putting on his dress every morning to take away the jitters. In this case, imagine the worst thing that can happen. Could someone die? Will there be a loss of limbs or other essential body parts? If the answer is yes then by all means become excited but otherwise just think about the long run.

Try to imagine a room full of dead people and body parts that will fill up the room when the situation is over. If you actually take two seconds to try to create that image, it will be enough to make you realize that no matter how stressful the situation is, no one is likely to die or become maimed and that you’re better off remaining calm.