Keep Calm and Carry On

confident woman leader

When Dee walked into the meeting room where we were going over our plans for a large event, we could tell something was wrong. She was late (she was never late), and her face was a display of confusion and uncertainty. Several of us rushed to her side and quickly learned Dee was in the middle of some type of medical crisis. She had driven by herself to the event site even though she shouldn’t have. Her sense of responsibility was still in place, but she was not able to fulfill her leadership duties for that weekend. I asked someone to check her into the hotel and help her to bed. I tried to remain calm and carry on—without her.

When difficult situations arise, leaders need to remember several things:

  1. Don’t panic. As you plan, think ahead to potential difficulties. Allow for emergencies so you won’t be taken by surprise and go into panic mode. This isn’t being pessimistic—it’s being ready to take action rather than being reactive.
  2. Put out fires. Develop skills to cope with speakers’ problems (no luggage, missing materials, late flights), facility glitches, food snafus, personnel divas, dropouts, etc. People will become ill; there will be travel difficulties; and no facility will be perfect. Some people won’t like the food and others will be missing towels! As the leader, you need to move quickly to solve problems as they arise. Notice the word “quickly”! Contingency plans are critical for successful leadership.
  3. Maintain team morale. Evaluation of all aspects of an event or a meeting is important so that mistakes are not reproduced. Write encouraging notes to your team members, and express your appreciation for their commitment and actions. The next time you come together, a small gift (even a handmade one) will demonstrate your gratitude to them for their leadership.

Why is it important to contain your panic, put out fires, and keep morale high? An effective leader is a consistent role model. He or she must embody a calm demeanor and control the fallout from disrupted schedules, missing seminar leaders, or uncooperative facility personnel. Your team will take its behavior cues from you! If you vacillate in a crisis, your team will falter when it is faced with various situations. Your positive example is vital to its actions as a team.

Dee’s health improved with proper food and a good night’s rest. She returned to her leadership duties the next morning. We were delighted she was “back”! In her busy-ness, she’d forgotten to take her medications at the proper times. Our event was a roaring success because of her attention to details. Another key element was the fact that our leaders kept calm and carried on!

Linda Clark is adults lead strategist for WMU. She is the author of 5 Leadership Essentials for Women and the main presenter of the CWLC course Leader Skills, based on that book.

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