Leadership In The Age Of Duck

I recently came across a post by Kate Thome “Got Executive Presence? Part 2 Be A Duck” where she talks about one of the coaching gems from her mother. “When you watch a duck on water, it’s moving all over the pond but completely still above the water. Underneath, the duck’s paddling like crazy to keep it calm above the surface. Be a duck. Keep the swirl underneath you. It won’t go away, you just have to put it somewhere else.”

It seemed like a great introduction to the follow up post on Leading Under Pressure since I want to talk about the importance of keeping your emotions under check to project confidence and positivity towards your team even when you have a bad day.

Having a bad mood

It happens to all of us. Every now and then even the most positive person doesn’t feel all that good. It might be you just had an argument with your spouse, your children don’t do well at school or your car broke down. Whatever the cause the moment you step through the door to the office you need to get to your “usual self”. If you are close to your team they will always read the signals. It is ok not to smile if you don’t feel like it but you need to let the environment around you know that it is not them, it is you. So what do you do? Either you are able to “forget” and flip the switch in your head that tells your body that everything is fine or you should just apologize to your team that you have problems that may impact your work and ask them for patience with you.

Taking things personally

This is big NO in business setting. In fact, in any setting. You should never take things personally or assume that the sole purpose of existence of other people is to hurt you. In most cases if you feel that others did something that harms you they didn’t mean to. In fact, they may not even realize that their actions impacted you in negative way. There are two things you can do. You can sit with the person and calmly analyze what just happened and let them know how their actions or words impacted you and ask them not to do it again. If that is not for whatever reasons practical you can at least try to find positive explanation of their actions. Just the fact that you can imagine that they meant good and just didn’t realize the negative impact on you can help you get to more positive and quiet mood.

Being distracted

Having way too many things on our mind is yet another reason why we have negative impact on the others around us. If you ever forget someone’s name the moment he told it to you, or you constantly switching between tasks and then not remembering what is the status of any of them, or if you just sit through a meeting without having a clue what was it about you know what I’m talking about. For a leader this is one of the things that can eventually destroy your relationship with your team as they would just say “he never listens”. The only way to change that is to force yourself to live in the moment. If you are talking to someone, remind yourself not to think about what you will have for dinner. If you sit on a meeting, stop responding to emails. And of course learn to say “no” to things that you know you won’t have time to deal with.

Feeling pressured and frustrated

The ultimate destroyer of your productivity or the productivity of your team is feeling of pressure and frustration. Both are strong emotions not easily handled but both can be tackled with a bit of mental gymnastics. The easiest way how to deal with frustrations is not to get to that state in the first place. And that doesn’t mean changing the people around you. It means having a positive outlook at life and have the internal acceptance that not everything in the world will bend the way you would like it to. And if you really get frustrated then not taking it personally, having face to face discussion with the source of your frustration, asking for help, razor sharp focus on resolution, or just acceptance that there are things in the world you cannot change and therefore should worry about are all good tactics how to deal with frustrations.

Being a duck

So if you want to be seen as a strong leader who people can rely on you should be like a duck. You will be still required to work hard, deal with your daily issues and problems under water, but on the surface you are the happy mother duck who leads by example and gives her offspring confidence and abilities to survive in today’s world


How do you ensure that you are able to lead by example and keep you team focused and motivated even when you are in bad mood?

Photo: © scabrn / Dollar Photo Club

Categories: Leadership

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1 reply


  1. Don’t Panic Rule Of Leadership – The Geeky Leader

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