How amazing would it be if our work life was like navigating through a calm, clear sea?
Peaceful, harmonious, free of any danger or treacherous waves?
Reality in the business world, as we well know it, is a lot more challenging though!
A leader at the helm of that boat (however big or small!) will have the great responsibility to know how to navigate far more troubled waters, guiding others to safely reach the much desired shore. Well, that at least until it's time to go out and brave the ocean again, filled with beautiful opportunities, towards a new goal and destination!
This leadership responsibility is similar to the one a teacher has to their students, or a parent to their children. Leaders are to show a way forward, help people develop, feel safe, learn and grow. We all hope to learn from our leader's experience, to feel inspired to follow their example!
But becoming this inspiring and assertive leader is far from an easy task...
And yet, get it right and it can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.
One of the first leadership books I ever read - which I got as a gift from a great leader himself! - was about the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who famously led his crew to safety after his ship, the Endurance, was crushed by ice on a dangerous expedition to the Antartic in the early 1900s.
From the many lessons we get from his remarkable tale of perseverance and survival, there is one that for me underlies all others: Shackleton remained calm even in the direst of circumstances. Had he not done so, would the outcome have been the same? I am not so sure.
So why is it that leaders today, and the business world in general, avoid so much the topic of calmness at work?
I believe there is a big misconception about what being a serene leader means, and about what a serene work environment really looks like.
You see, calmness is all about action and performance!
Being serene is like this amazing superpower people and businesses should aim for to achieve greater things!
Think of some of top performers in sport, for example. Shall we start perhaps, with the man who currently drives the fastest car in the world? Lewis Hamilton keeps breaking all Formula1 records, and his extraordinary achievements are often praised in the media as a direct result of his incredible inner calmness - a strength and ability to concentrate and deliver the best possible outcome, even when things don't go exactly as planned.
Another example, now from the movies? The Godfather! If you want business grit, and are still unsure about bringing up the topic of serenity into your organisation, thinking it will make people "soft", well... There is nothing soft about Don Corleone! He was all about tactical action and getting results, but he always displayed a sense of quietness, assertiveness and calmness! In fact, he listened carefully to what people had to say and was known for being a man of his word, right? ;)
Obviously I am not here to promote a gangster culture (!), but to unequivocally burst the myth that calm leaders are weak, passive or inexpressive. We need more people advocating for the promotion of serenity in organisations, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector, not only to build better work environments, but ultimately to reach improved results and success!
The truth is, calm leaders are more inspiring to their teams, perform better and just generally go through their days with a lot more ease than their stressed out and anxious peers.
But getting there requires practice to build new habits, and learning how some key business tools can in fact help nurture this at work.
Look back at Lewis Hamilton early in his career, for example, and he was very different man! If things didn't go as intended then, he acted more explosively, would get upset and his insecurities and anxieties would cost him precious time that could take the win from him! It took years of practice and learning new skills, but now he has the knowledge and confidence to chose to be calm, and keep smashing records!
The earlier you start to consciously chose to practice calm as a state of mind, the better it will be for you and everyone around you. So to get you going on your serene leadership development journey, here are our top three tips of things you can start to practice now:
1. Be Ready: One of the main things to keep a cool head when facing stressful situations, is to be ready for when they happen!
Know your risks: Start by doing a comprehensive risk assessment, and see what you can do to mitigate their chances of happening.
Plan ahead: Set up clear guidelines on what to do when (knock on wood!) something undesirable happens, despite your best efforts to avoid them.
Organise your processes: Write things down, and make it easy for your team to find information on how to deal with issues in an assertive way.
Share your knowledge: Make your strategy known to everyone!
2. Count to 10: Or however many numbers you need to think more clearly when under pressure!
Reflect on what you are feeling: When things go wrong, we feel anger, shame, anxiety... Acknowledging those feelings is the first important step to overcome them and move on!
Assess the situation: After managing your negative feelings and impulses, look at the situation as objectively as you can. Don't prejudge or assume anything.
Collect your thoughts: Take time to analyse things and structure your response. Perhaps you had already anticipated something like this could happen and have a plan in place?
Think before you act: Some situations may require a more immediate response than others, but you want to avoid an explosive reaction you will later regret.
3. Get perspective: The glass really is always half full.
Contextualize: In the bigger scheme of things, how disastrous was what happened, really? Perhaps you are allowing one thing to overshadow many other great achievements!
Focus on what you can learn: Everything carries a lesson and an opportunity. If you hadn't anticipated this risk or planned for it before, now is the time to document your learnings and improve processes where needed.
Use positive messaging: Being negative and desperate will only fuel the situation further, and make it harder for everyone to find solutions.
Have some sense of humour: Whenever possible, don't take yourself too seriously!
Understanding how vital serenity is for you to achieve improved results - not only as a leader, but as a person in general! -is a great first step. But if taking action to get there was easy, everyone would do it!
So if you ever find yourself struggling on your journey, don't feel disheartened! Nurturing calmness requires a continuous improvement mindset and a willingness to learn, so make sure you reach out and connect to others. Accept that you might need help, and try to build a support system with like-minded leaders who also want to boost their serene superpower!
Remember that everyone has the potential to be someone that others look up to, admire, and proudly follow at work.
Make sure you don’t waste this incredible opportunity, and get practicing your serene leadership skills!
Carina Martins Nakama is the founder and lead instructor at Benessere.
She is passionate about inspiring everyone in Hospitality and Tourism to develop a more serene mindset and learn powerful business tools to achieve fantastic results.
Learn more about the Be.Serene Programme and leadership courses on www.benessere.uk