10 Ways You Can Stay Calm Under Pressure Like Great Leaders Do

Simple Ideas That Will Make Stressful Situations Easier to Cope With

We’re all in a leadership role in some way, which usually starts with leading ourselves first.

Throughout life, we’ll have many situations where we’ll be tested, whether that’s mentally, emotionally, physically or relationally. How we deal with those situations determines the type of leader we become, which also affects whether we accomplish what we want to or not.

The better we become at managing challenging situations, the more we’ll grow as a leader. Anyone can learn to deal with stressful situations if they want to. As the great Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Ways to stay calm under pressure like great leaders do

Over the years, having had the opportunity to work with and learn from different leaders, one quality I know powerful leaders possess is the ability to stay calm under pressure. No matter what is going on around them, they’re still able to be composed and not let the situation rattle them.

How does that happen? Is it a born quality or it is a developed quality?

The reality is that almost all great leaders were not born with some magical quality that made them a great leader. While they may have had some natural gifts, most leaders have honed and developed their leadership skills over long periods of time.

The good news is anyone can learn the skills or techniques required to stay calm when under pressure. Here are ten simple things we can do to help us cope with stressful situations a lot better, which in turn, will make us better leaders.

  1. Stop or pause first before responding. Great leader will give themselves a little extra time before saying or doing something. It’s very tempting in stressful situations to react quickly and say or do the first thing that comes to mind, however it’s more beneficial to pause first before responding.
  2. Take a break. In highly stressful situations, taking a break and also allowing others involved to do the same, will dissipate any built up tension. Taking a break can be as simple as going for a short walk, drinking water, doing some stretches, getting some fresh air, or even taking a nap, if possible. It’s quite amazing how much we can think clearly when we step away from something that has been bothering us.
  3. Take time to reflect. Self-reflection is a powerful skill for anyone to have, not just leaders. During reflection, it gives us the opportunity to check our attitude and whether what we’re doing is what’s required at that time. Quite often, reflection will help us see things from different perspectives, which can help us reach solutions a lot quicker.
  4. Refocus on your outcomes. Lack of clarity results in confusion, which can often cloud our judgment and our ability to make good decisions. Just asking, “What am I trying to accomplish right now?” will help us get back to what is most important right now.
  5. Ask new, empowering questions. Quite often, we get caught up in our way of doing things, which can continue to create more pressure for us and those involved. When we start asking new questions, we’ll be forced to come up with new answers. In order to get new results, we have to take new actions and it starts with asking new questions.
  6. Speak to a mentor or trusted advisor. Almost all the challenges we’ll ever face in life, someone has already been through them. Instead of trying to work out everything on our own or even try to force something to happen, it can be beneficial to speak to a mentor or trusted advisor. They’ll be able to share new perspectives, which will often help make the situation we find ourselves in, a lot easier to cope.
  7. Release any tension or stress you are experiencing. Sometimes just saying, “I’m actually stressed right now” can be a way to acknowledge what we’re feeling or experiencing at that given moment. If we resist what we’re feeling, they tend to hang around longer, which isn’t good for us in the long run. The key is to allow those emotions to move through us so that we can release them, if we need to.
  8. Change your self-talk. Most stress is self-created and it often starts with our self-talk. If we consistently have negative self-talk, we’ll tend to experience negative emotions. Instead of being our own worst critic, it’s more beneficial to change our self-talk to one that’s encouraging, positive and focused on outcomes.
  9. Do something different. Sometimes we just need to have some fun to lighten up the stressful situations we find ourselves in. This could be finally doing something we’ve been meaning to do for a while, or being proactive and getting something done before it becomes a bigger challenge down the track. The key is to be in action consistently as a leader.
  10. Move into gratitude. Perhaps the easiest and most powerful thing we can do is to appreciate what’s going well for us at that moment. Amidst all the chaos, if we can stop and shift our focus from the problems we have to what we can appreciate, that will change our mindset. The more we can be appreciative, the more we’ll realise that our challenges can be solved.

Just like great leaders, if we want to be better at dealing with the challenges of life, we must expand our awareness of what we can do when we find ourselves under pressure. The greater awareness we have, the better we’ll cope with stressful situations.

Action Step: Reflect back on the last time you experienced a lot of pressure or found yourself under great stress. How did you deal with that situation? And what can you do better now with the new awareness you have?

Question: What could be another technique we can apply to stay calm under pressure?

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