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Three Keys to Grace Under Pressure - Defining Leadership Qualities

 

 “By 'guts' I mean, grace under pressure.”

                                                                  ~Ernest Hemingway~

Heroes are not necessarily leaders.  Singular events or isolated demonstrations of courage or conviction rarely define a person as a great leader.  However, they can remind us of some of the qualities we look for in our leaders, whether they are leaders of our communities, our organizations, or our country.  One of these important leadership qualities is an uncanny ability to deliver exactly what is needed at the precise time it is needed. 

Meet Bob McElroy.   I heard about Bob in a story that was carried in a local newspaper.  Bob will likely never end up on Time magazine’s list of “Leaders and Revolutionaries.”  For the most part, Bob’s life had always been pretty ordinary.  But what Bob did on a Tuesday afternoon in April 2010 was pretty extraordinary.  According to Bob’s recounting of the event, he was driving home from work about 5:30 in the afternoon when he noticed the car in front of him swerving back and forth from one lane to the next.  The next thing he knew, the car swerved to the right, left the road, went down an embankment into the lake, and began to sink.  According to eyewitnesses, Bob jumped out of his truck, yelled to another driver to call 911, ran down to the lake, dove in, and swam out to the car.  Once he reached the sinking car, he noticed that the driver was an elderly man who was unconscious.  Bob realized that he wasn’t going to be able to get the man out of the car by himself, so he called for help to another passerby.  Together Bob and the other good Samaritan were able to pull the elderly man out of the car through the window before it sank, and then swim to shore. The elderly gentleman was taken to the hospital and released the next day with only minor injuries.

The moral of the story, of course, is that Bob delivered exactly what was needed at the precise time it was needed.  And that is a quality we look for not only in heroes, but in our leaders.  Now, does one heroic feat like Bob’s suddenly turn him into a great leader?  Certainly not, but there are three important leadership lessons to be learned from Bob’s story.

We look to our leaders to…
  1. Utilize their knowledge and experience to act in a manner that meets the demands of challenging high pressure situations (someone trapped in a sinking car qualifies as challenging, right?).
  2. Determine the needs of others with a high level of awareness, take action from a position of choice, and take full accountability for the results of their actions, even when under tremendous stress. (Bob quickly ascertained a need of another and then made a choice to stop and do what he could in a crisis situation).
  3. Adapt when circumstances suddenly go from the routine to crisis and take corrective actions (a normal drive home suddenly turned into a life or death situation).
These are the qualities that define what we at Farr call, a Conscious Leader™.  And it's our job to help develop these qualities in the clients we work with so they can be the leadership “heroes” inside their own families, teams and organizations every day.

leadership qualities

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