Leading Under Pressure

One of the key characteristics of a good leader is ability to deal with unexpected situations, with disappointments and frustrations, with stress and depression, with pressure and anything that the ever changing high velocity business of today brings.

What characteristics you need to have and what behavior you need to exhibit so your team follows you even in the difficult times? It all starts with 3C (Composure, Confidence, and Clarity).


Even under pressure you need to keep your cool. You need to be able to calmly assess the situation and not buckle in. As a leader it is your responsibility to push your team so they grow, learn, execute and excel at their work. At the same time you are here to shield them from undue pressure. Why? Because the biggest killers of productivity are anxiety, uncertainty, fear and stress.

If your boss pushes on you to meet unrealistic deadline it is you who need to stop it right there and do you best to explain to him what is and is not possible. You may tap your team for detail information but you should never act just as a proxy who pushes the pressure to the team by asking them for impossible.

In the eyes of your team you should be someone who is easy to reason with even when stakes are high, who never yells, and who is consistent and fair regardless of external circumstances. This also means that every now and then you will have to take a fall for the team and then work with them to make sure you both are better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future.


This leads us to confidence. If you are not sure what you are doing or what should be done, if you are the yes-man and agree with whatever your boss or customer asks then you will either have no choice but to push the pressure to the team or you get yourself so stressed that it will be difficult to maintain the Composure.

Confidence means that you are sure of your own abilities and that you trust your team. If one of these is missing then you need to fix it fast. So how do you build confidence? This is rather broad topic but let’s start with positive mindset. If you have the mindset that you know you will do your best and that the same applies to your team and if you are willing to celebrate (at least in your mind) some small wins (like learning something new along the way) it will gradually build up to a feeling of achievement and success. And success breeds confidence.

You may also use the trick of remembering that almost everyone struggles when doing something for the first time. You may remember all your fails when you were trying to walk, or learn to write. Or what about the first time you sit on a bike? Or first time you tried to play a guitar? All these should give you enough history of overcoming obstacles and achieving something you haven’t thought possible to form the positive mental attitude that leads to confidence even when dealing with unknown.


If you are calm under pressure and confident you will be able to deal with it then you are ready to be crystal clear on what needs to be done and you are ready to communicate this in a transparent manner. The key here is to be truthful while managing expectations of all the stakeholders and creating sense of urgency inside the team while keeping stress away.

This is best achieved by exhibiting behavior aligned with the 3C. When you are confident, calm and communicate with clarity you appear to be in control of the situation (and hopefully you are). For the external stakeholders this means that they will trust you to handle the situation and they will understand your reasons for why something is or is not possible. For the team it means they feel like you are here to help and they can rely on you to have their backs. This then leads to willingness to do their best so they don’t let you down.

There is much more that can be said about how to deal with stress, difficult conversations, motivation of the team and getting things done but when you get under pressure remember to start with 3C: Composure, Confidence, and Clarity.

How do you deal with pressure? How do you ensure you keep your cool in front of the team? How do you push the team to excel and deliver while shielding them from undue pressure that would destroy their focus?

Photo: Shutterstock, Inc.

Categories: Leadership

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1 reply


  1. Leadership In The Age Of Duck | The Geeky Leader

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