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Leadership Thought #394 – Grace Under Pressure

August 2, 2012

Free Ski Jumper and the Sky Stock Photo

To reach the pinnacle of anything you need to exhibit grace under pressure.

It is fascinating to watch the Olympics for many reasons, and I enjoy observing how different athletes handle pressure. Some people seize the moment with relative ease while others sadly fall apart and make uncharacteristic mistakes.  When you get to this level of performance excellence, about every competing athlete has superlative physical gifts and natural ability.  What separates the winners from the losers is often their mental toughness and emotional resiliency.  They have grace under pressure.

It is usually obvious when we see someone who shows grace under pressure:

  • They avoid silly controversies.
  • They are loose and relaxed rather than tight and stressed.
  • Focus and determination trumps worry and self-doubt.
  • Instead of over-considering what the competition is doing, they commit to executing their own plan of attack and doing the absolute best they can under the circumstances.
  • When they hit a temporary bump in the road they trust their training, recover quickly, and move forward.
  • It seems like they are fully in the moment and enjoying the experience rather than dreading the consequences of failing or underperforming.
  • They respect and appreciate the talents and accomplishments of others rather than resenting them.
  • They are generous with their praise and gratitude and humble in their own self-assessment.

Leaders should take a cue from the best of the Olympic athletes, those wearing gold and those who don’t.   Business is an ongoing competition.  Your mettle will be tested on a regular basis.  You will win some and lose some, but you should always hold on to your personal dignity and strive to show grace under pressure.

Life will have moments of pure joy and exultation, but it will also challenge you with despair and hardship.   All we can do is our best, regardless of what happens, and let the chips fall where they may.  Seize the moments rather than let them seize you!