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Everyone encounters stressful and chaotic situations, but some people encounter them more often than others: We're looking at you, parents.
Children have an uncanny ability to quickly create chaos in what should otherwise be a peaceful and simple process or activity. Take bedtime for example. My wife and I have four kids all under the age of 7, and as Jim Gaffigan so aptly put it, bedtime is like a reverse hostage negotiation: If you stay in there, I’ll give you whatever you want!
During one particularly hectic bedtime “negotiation,” things got a little more crazy than usual and I got a lot more frustrated than usual. At the peak of the chaos I had this thought: Calm is contagious. Thankfully, just that morning I had watched a Leadercast clip with Rorke Denver, former Navy SEAL commander, best-selling author and founder of Ever Onward. During his brief talk, Rorke shared a valuable lesson that he learned about remaining calm in the face of chaos. Granted, I wasn’t in the middle of a gun battle that threatened my very existence, but I was in a position where my leadership mattered. I was in a situation where my response to the events taking place affected those involved.
So what did I do? I stopped. I took a deep breath. I repeated the phrase to myself, "Calm is contagious." Then, while my kids stared at me wondering what was wrong with dad, I calmly gave instructions to my previously-falling-apart children. Did my kids shape up and behave perfectly? Absolutely not. But did the tone of the evening and the behavior of all participants, take on a completely different atmosphere? You better believe it.
I truly believe what I encountered with my kids is no different than what we face each day with our teams and in our organizations. Sure, the participants are hopefully a little more civilized, but the bottom line is the same—if we are not careful, our actions quickly begin to be dictated by our circumstances. We find ourselves simply reacting instead of actually leading.
Leadership isn’t something that can be reserved for certain environments or assigned to specific tasks. True leadership takes place 24/7. So embrace the chaos, remember calm is contagious and be a leader worth following.