How To Be Calm In Complete Chaos

Pamela McClinton

29 January 2015

“Conflict builds character. Crisis defines it.” says Steven V. Thulon, the Band Superintendent of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. Leaders experience a range of complexity in the workplace, from skyrocketing victory to complete and utter defeat. Nothing in life will solidify your viability as a leader than your response in the face of challenge.

You’ve seen it before: the new leader full of passion and creativity, experiencing the thrill of spontaneous vision, bold ventures and an enthusiastic drive that has him working tirelessly to see his vision become reality. The new leader inspires us, motivates us and captivates our hearts! The flipside of the coin is the seasoned leader who often displays a cautious optimism. His humility has originated from many experiences that have proven: no matter how great a plan looks on paper, his execution, the world’s acceptance of his innovation or service, and his composure despite any number of complications are what substantiate true success.

Experience refines the best of leaders. Conflict and workplace challenges are instruments that can be great opportunities to shape leadership character.

While there are ways that are much less painful to develop your leadership, many seasoned leaders have learned through the challenge of team chaos. Whether it will come in the form of a product recall, economic woe, losing talent, or a natural disaster, chaos, doesn’t have to take you out.

How do you cut through the noise and remain calm in the midst of chaos?


We’ve narrowed down 2 best practices that will help you demonstrate calm in complete chaos.

  1. Understand that conflict is inevitable. When crisis occurs, it will be easy to drop everything and run for the hills. Conflict is not comfortable. Chaos is even more difficult. But conflict is unavoidable. Organizational consultant, Ana Shetach, shares that the workplace is a natural setting in which one will experience conflict because of the diversity of characteristics, ranging from age, education, culture, upbringing, opinions, or experiences that permeate workplace groups. Because of this, it will not be a matter of if you will experience conflict or chaos, but when you will experience conflict or chaos in your leadership role.
  2. Be aware that combat is optional. Through awareness that you will experiences conflict, you should be aware that engaging in negative confrontations during conflict is preventable. Associate Professors, Olivier Doucet, Jean Poitras and Denis Chenevert, from the Department of Human Resources Management at HEC Montreal share that as a leader, the most essential role you play in an organization is managing conflict. You have the ability to impact your team in three specific ways: in a direct role, through intervention, or through your leadership style. Directly, a leader can manage a chaotic situation through interaction instead of avoidance. When intervening, you can act as a mediator or arbitrator to reduce chaos, and lastly, you can use a conflict handling management style, such as collaboration to work toward organizational stability.

You can display the calm and confidence needed to guide your team through instability.

Recognize that challenges are unavoidable, but as a leader, you have the ability to set the tempo that will calmly and confidently navigate rough waters.

“Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.” Max Lucado

Now, it’s your turn…

How can you change the way you have handled chaos in the past?

We want support you on your leadership journey, access videos like “Bringing Order to the Chaos” on LeadercastNow!

Pamela McClinton

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