When I speak to audiences on the topic of leadership, I early in the presentation remind them that they are being watched. I’ll ask, “They’re watching you for what?” Invariably, someone will yell out, “Everything!” and that person is right—everything. As leaders, your conduct and behavior are constantly under scrutiny, and people determine what they can and cannot do based on your example. In addition, they are watching to see how you respond under pressure—in a crisis.
It has been a long time since I’ve made the transit through the Suez Canal, and I hadn’t thought about it much until I recently saw the story of the enormous container ship stuck sideways in the canal—take it from a retired naval officer—that’s a bad day. So that you know— this is an incredibly busy maritime place in the world. The year was probably 1993, and I was the Officer-of-the-Deck (OOD— person in charge on the Bridge) onboard a frigate as we headed north to transit the Suez Canal the following day. As we came out of the Red Sea and entered the Gulf of Suez, the shipping traffic increased five-fold. Ships were everywhere. Perhaps you hadn’t given it much thought, but ships HIT other ships all the time. I will never forget looking into that radar and just being surrounded by other ships. I wanted to scream, die, run away—all three. I knew that my Bridge Watch team (all the people I needed to get through this) watched me see how I would handle this. I took a deep breath, stood up straight, and dealt with each passing ship, one by one. In case you’re wondering, I survived that day and earned my watch team’s respect. I was calm—and they were calm. Your employees, staff, team members will reflect the emotions and behaviors you’re sending— send the right stuff.