Are you an agitated leader? Here are four tips to help you stay “CALM.”

By Virginia Hill | April 20, 2020

When agitated leaders join a meeting, you can feel it instantly, even in a video conference. These leaders may offer a short, obligatory greeting, and answer “Busy!” when others ask how they are. Then they get right down to business because the agenda is ambitious and time is short. Subtly, if not noticeably, the team’s agitation rises. The agitated leader often doesn’t recognize the effect they’re having on others. But by practicing self-awareness, leaders can learn how others perceive their actions and take appropriate steps to manage and mitigate the spread of this anxiety.

Becoming self-aware is one of the foundational competencies of the Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model, and it is also a key aspect of emotional intelligence. One way to become self-aware is to practice CALM. Leaders can practice being calm just as they practice other skills and mindsets.

Drawing on Brené Brown’s 2010 book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and the Partnership’s leadership model, here are four tips to help you practice and improve being CALM.

Commit yourself to practicing calm

Think about the situations, people or circumstances that make you anxious and those that invoke calm. Reflect on your experiences with anxious leaders, colleagues, family or friends. Do you tend to respond with more anxiety and agitation? Reflect on ways to create a calm reaction, such as counting to 10 or taking three deep breaths before responding.

Ask yourself: Do I have enough data to respond?

People often feel anxious because they have limited information, so determine whether you have all the knowledge you need to respond appropriately to a situation. Ask for more information and verbally acknowledge if you need more time to think before you can respond calmly.

Let go of the need to control

First, acknowledge that wanting to control a situation and “be right” are valid feelings. Then let go of those feelings, knowing that focusing on control and self-righteousness will only increase the agitation of the moment. This is hard and will take practice!

Mindful recognition that calm is just as contagious as panic

You can better engage others and build relationships by maintaining calm rather than panic. As Brown writes, mindfully ask yourself, “ ‘Will freaking out help?’ The answer is always no.”

By following these four practices, leaders can become the calming presence their employees need. So remember to keep CALM and carry on.

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