Pressure, we all have it, but do you know how to lead through it …

Some leaders that just seem to have it all together. No matter what happens. They stay calm, the don’t react (or appear to), they don’t fly off the handle, and they seem to just ‘take it all in their stride’.

All leaders face pressure. Whether the pressure is about the achievement of budgets or numbers, or if it is about always having the solution and being right. Or the pressure might come from having to make big decisions. Or even having to engage in robust conversations.

Regardless of where the pressure comes from, there are some fundamental ‘laws of leadership’ that when applied will change the life of the leader and make life easier for their team members.

The real skills required to lead under pressure include intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills and information skills, and without them, the pressure will win. Let’s unpack these separately!

Intrapersonal Skills

A long time ago, in a place far, far away, it was thought that your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) was 80% responsible for the success that you would achieve during your working life. Actually, the place wasn’t that far away, and it wasn’t that long ago that this belief existed. With the advent of the IQ, in the early 1900s, came what researchers thought was the ability to measure how smart people are. And of course, that must determine how successful they would be, right. Not so much.

If it is not the IQ, what is responsible for our success, especially as leaders? It must be Emotional Quotient (EQ)… And if EQ is more important than IQ, maybe our success is based on something like 80% EQ and 20% IQ. Cotrus, Stanciu and Bulborea (2012) conducted a study on students, to clarify if their success really was dependent in 8 parts out of 10 on their EQ, or their emotional intelligence. They confirmed that for students, that was the case.

But many years before that, in 1995, the person responsible for creating the concept of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman’s stated very clearly that he didn’t think that it was possible to come up with what percentage of your success can be attributed to your emotional intelligence. What he did point out though, was that:

“Emotional intelligence trumps IQ primarily in those “soft” domains where intellect is relatively less relevant for success — where, for example, emotional self-regulation and empathy may be more salient skills than purely cognitive abilities”. That is, in the domain of leadership.

In other words, EQ is more important than IQ when people and their emotions are involved. Aka; Leadership.

The intrapersonal skills are those skills that have to be practiced internally, and that need to connect the limbic system of the brain (emotions) to the smart brain, pre-frontal cortex – in order to create control. Emotional control, behavioural control, and situational control. Emotional control is the basis of emotional intelligence.

And, like all intrapersonal skills, the focus of emotional control is around responding not reacting to stimulus. It is about reflecting and rendering. And it is about being present. These skills are simple, but not easy, especially when you are in a BOOM moment or a BOOM period.

The process of emotional control involves emotional self-awareness, then emotional self-regulation. It then involves emotional social-awareness, then emotional social-regulation (in others). A learnt skill set.

If you do nothing else after reading this, just ask yourself, what emotion am I feeling right now, and why?

Interpersonal Skills

The purists might say that emotional intelligence is actually an interpersonal skill, not an intrapersonal skill, as it is about how we deal with others. I don’t concur with this viewpoint, as interpersonal skills are more than emotional intelligence. They include care factor, connection, and character. These skills align with John C. Maxwell’s irrefutable Law of Leadership (Law 3) which is the Law of Solid Ground. Leaders who can care, who can connect, and who are strong of character, can engender respect and trust from their team.

When it comes time to lead under pressure, teams must trust their leader. Period. What can happen is that leaders can forget that their teams are feeling the pressure as much as they are. Team members feel the pressure too, but they don’t have the information that the leader has, and so are left to make assumptions or presumptions about what is happening.

With some care factor, a level of psychological safety can be achieved, where everyone feels safe to ask questions about the situation or circumstances. Physical safety is a big deal and keeping people safe during a BOOM event is critical, as is connecting with people on a personal level, in order to understand their situation.

Care factor, connection and character can all be demonstrated through empathetic behaviour. Empathy is a key skill of leaders, and one that is being talked about more and more in recent times. But what is it. It’s the ability to put ourselves in others shoes, and understand their position, and their emotional state. For sure. But real empathy (again unpacked by Daniel Goleman) is about compassion.

Compassion is taking action (compassion is not a feeling). It is taking action to make someone’s life better. In psychology, we know that the vast majority of humans (like bonobo monkeys, our closest relatives) are born compassionate. That is, we are wired to care for and help others. Cortes, Barragan, Brooks, and Meltzof (2012) studied at what age children would give up food, even when they were hungry, to help another child. 19 months of age was the age that children would share their food – without being told they had to.

So, why when the BOOM moments come on, do we become less compassionate. Why, in the moments when others need us the most, do we focus on ourselves, to the detriment of our teams…

If you do nothing else after reading this blog, go and see what you can do to help out either a team member or even a perfect stranger.

Informational Skills

The informational skills, or process skills, are those skills that are about using information to make decisions. Leaders need courage to ‘make decisions under fire’. Yes, there is fear, but yes, there needs to be action. That action includes making decisions, delegating, and disseminating information.

Obtaining the right information in the first place, is as important as what you do with it. A bad decision made with correct information is much better than a bad decision made with very little information or the wrong information.

The process is face fears, make decisions, and have a future focus. The future focus ensures that the leader is looking to the longer term, as well as fighting the current BOOM fire.

When under pressure, one of the most important leadership skills is delegation. This word is somewhat overused in leadership circles and can sometimes nearly be touted as the panacea for all leadership woes. That is not the case, but what is certain is that when the pressure is on, the more people that are responding to the BOOM event in a controlled way, the better the outcome. Leaders feel that they need to take everything on themselves, and that is just not the case. Far from it.

If you do nothing else after reading this blog, practice your leadership delegation skills by asking for support with a project or task you are currently struggling with.

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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Andrei Cotruş, Camelia Stanciu, Alina Andreea Bulborea, EQ vs. IQ Which is Most Important in the Success or Failure of a Student?, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, Volume 46, 2012, Pages 5211-5213, ISSN 1877-0428


Book: Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman (1996)

Book: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell (2008)

Cortes Barragan, Rodolfo & Brooks, Rechele & Meltzoff, Andrew. (2020). Altruistic food sharing behavior by human infants after a hunger manipulation. Scientific Reports 10. 10.1038/s41598-020-58645-9.


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