The New Leadership Challenge: Staying Calm When No One Else Is

leadership Jan 06, 2022

You can feel the tension in the room. It's palpable. People are on edge. They're experiencing some kind of stew which might include fear, worry, and anger. 

In these moments, what do you do?

  • Join in on the speculation?
  • Add your two cents that are filled with bitterness and disgust?
  • Stay silent while you become enveloped with the stew everyone else is experiencing?

In this new season of ministry, the post-Covid church, pastors must begin paying attention to their own presence that they bring with them to moments like these.

Here's the assignment: 

Staying calm when no one else is. 

There is nothing else more contagious than a leader who is visibly fearful, worried, or angry.

This is true in the home - when parents aren't calm, no one else is either.

This is true in society - when government leaders are visibly fearful, worried, or even angry, it creates uneasiness in everyone who is aware of what's going on.

This is true in business - when executives seem to not know what to do because they're overwhelmed by worry, employees follow suit quite quickly.

This is true in a room of any kind. Including the church.

This is part 2 of the Leading the Post-Covid Church series

How to Stay Calm When No One Else Is

Whether you're dealing with another complaint or you're trying to guide people away from fear, anger, or despair and toward Jesus, your presence plays a big part in what they receive from you regardless of what you say.

So what does it look like to stay calm when no one else is?

Listen, stay curious, and stay connected

Staying calm doesn't mean that we emotionally detach from people who aren't calm. It means we stay within ourselves without letting other people's anxiety spread into us.

So, we begin by listening and staying curious. We ask questions when necessary. We stay connected to the people who aren't calm while remaining calm ourselves. This isn't easy, but it's worth it.

Be abundantly aware of what is going on inside of yourself

When you're in the middle of a crisis or, at the very least, a perceived crisis your heart rate will likely increase, your shoulders might tense up and it is here that you must internally not surrender to your initial internal reaction to the situation.

Too often the reason people join the mood of the room is because they don't mentally and spiritually step back and examine what is going on internally.

Control your breathing

The essence of staying calm when no one else is is slowing down when everyone else is speeding up emotionally. One of the best ways to do this is to pay attention to your breath.

Instead of letting your increased heart rate drive the boat, slow yourself down through deeper breaths. 

Identify what is yours to carry

In an epic Twitter thread on differentiation and remaining a 'calm presence,' Steve Cuss, author of Managing Leadership Anxiety, included the following question which I think is so vitally important for us to consider:

What is mine to carry, what is theirs, what is God's?

When you can accurately assess the answer to that question, you're on the way to a place that is worth going.

Name the tension

When something is brewing under the surface gets named, it is exposed and brought to the light. And when this happens, it loses some of its grip on the people involved. 

All of a sudden, the thing that was stealthily in control is now being looked at and examined by all.

Respond, don't react

In stressful moments, reacting is automatic. So to stay calm when no one else is, we must stop ourselves from reacting and take our time to respond.

We measure our words and we remain aware of what is going on inside ourselves.

Be truthful

No one is interested in empty platitudes or false hope. What a leader must do is create clarity around what is.

We must be truthful when it comes to the challenges of the situation. No sugarcoating. No making the situation smaller so that it is less challenging and easier to deal with in the moment.

When Someone is Angry With You

Apply these same things. 

  • Listen, stay curious, and stay connected
  • Be abundantly aware of what is going on inside yourself
  • Control your breathing
  • Identify what is yours to carry
  • Name the tension
  • Respond, don't react
  • Be truthful

My Biggest Recommendation: Invest in this work

This stuff has been enormously helpful to me since I began leading through the Covid era of ministry. And I know it's going to be useful to me as I lead into the future.

My journey in this began with following Steve Cuss on Twitter. I highly recommend you do the same.

Then, I read two books on the subject:

Then, I joined Steve's program and community called Capable Life.

Please, do yourself a favor and invest in this work. 

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