Lead like a duck

Lead like a duck
“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but paddling like the dickens underneath.”
~Michael Caine

When things get frantic, do you get frantic? Can those who work with you and live with you notice your frenetic energy? And do they then get frantic themselves? An essential leadership skill – whether you’re leading an organization, a team, a project, or a family – is to learn to flow with the chaos and show a calm demeanor to the people around you.

I had a client who could not control her emotions when things got tough or stressful. She would react strongly and publicly, at times complaining. Her outbursts only made things more stressful for her team. They would sense her reaction and build off of it, or begin to complain and bad-mouth others themselves. Until she finally began to change her behavior.

She learned to find more effective ways and places to vent her emotions. We talked through immediate actions she could take at a stressful moment to diffuse the situation (and herself) such as stepping away, taking a breath, or finding a bit of humor to lighten the mood, and we developed reminders and structures to help her curb her need to jump in and react (like posting the acronym, WAIT – Why Am I Talking?). She found multiple ways to be calmer on the surface, even though she was “paddling like the dickens underneath,” in order to handle any issues and manage her people through the stress.

Where do you need to be calmer? How can you be more like a duck? The next time you feel the stress getting to you and your frenetic energy and anxiety are showing, WAIT, find a way to calm yourself, and notice the benefit for you and for those around you.

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What People Are Saying

Dwight McLeod   |   28 March 2011

I once received some feedback about this very issue. It seems that when I took one of the many typing indicators it determined that I was as calm in a high stress situation as in areas that were routine. This was good and bad. The good as you pointed out was that the team remained calm and did not get rattled and unable to perform, the bad is that no one really knew how bad the situation was and therefore did not have the chance to rise to the occasion and help out. I have not changed the nature in which I take stress, but I have found cues to help those around me appreciate the gravity of the situation. Just thought I would share this to enhance your thoughts.

Lisa Kohn   |   29 March 2011

Thanks Dwight – that is excellent food for thought and I know I will incorporate it for myself and my clients as we talk through stress, calmness, and reactions. Good for you that you took the feedback and found a way to work with it that worked for you (and those around you)!