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Leadership Thought #394 – Grace Under Pressure


It is fascinating to watch the Olympics for many reasons including observing how different athletes handle pressure. Some people seem to seize the moment with relative ease while others sadly fall apart and make uncharacteristic mistakes.  When you get to this level of performance excellence just about every competing athlete has superlative physical gifts and natural ability.  What separates the winners from the losers is often their mental toughness and emotional resiliency.  They have grace under pressure.

I don’t think it is fair to name names, but there have been a number of competitors who have wilted under the glare of the Olympic spotlight.  Unfortunately, NBC often spent a considerable amount of time hyping them up beforehand instead of waiting until the final results to decide who to laud and profile.  It worried me that they were trying to create a fairy tale story before it actually happened.  I hope the individual athletes fall from grace isn’t more painful for them because of not meeting the unfair expectations set by the media circus.

It is usually pretty obvious when we see someone who shows grace under pressure:

  • They avoid silly controversies.
  • They are loose and relaxed rather than tight and stressed.
  • Focus and determinations trumps worry and self-doubt.
  • Instead of over-considering what the competition is doing, they commit to executing their own plan of attack and doing the very best they can under the circumstances.
  • When they hit a temporary bump in the road they trust their training, recover quickly and move forward.
  • It seems like they are fully in the moment and enjoying the experience rather than dreading the consequences of failing or under performing.
  • They respect and appreciate the talents and accomplishments of others rather than resenting them.
  • They are generous with their praise and gratitude and somewhat humble in their own self-assessment.

Leaders should take a cue from the best of the Olympic athletes (and this doesn’t always mean the actual gold medal winners).   Instead of every four years, business is an on-going competition. Your mettle is often tested on a daily basis.  You will win some and lose some, but you should always hold on to your personal dignity and strive to show grace under pressure.  Life will have moments of pure joy and exultation, but it will also challenge you with despair and hardship.   All we can do is our best regardless of what happens and let the chips fall where they may.  Seize the moments rather than let them seize you!

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