In his “Meditations” nearly 2,000 years ago, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius gave us a powerful picture of what it looks like to be a leader during a crisis. He wrote, “To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.”
As a fleet leader, you’re grappling with the effects of a global pandemic crashing over you and your organization. How do you stay calm and be that rock of stability and confidence so that you can effectively lead your team through the rough seas of these uncertain times?
Over the years in my career as a professional writer, business owner and leader, I’ve encountered more crises than I’d care to admit. But it’s because of those challenges that I’ve been able to develop a mental framework that helps me keep my head together – to think clearly and lead effectively in the face of uncertainty.
I call it “Glance vs. Gaze.” The idea is that we can’t control the COVID-19 pandemic – or any crisis, for that matter – but we can control what we focus on.
So, Glance vs. Gaze is about adjusting your focus in a way that empowers you.
When you glance at something, you look at it briefly and then move on. You don’t dwell on it. But when you gaze at it, you focus on it intensely.
To stay calm in a crisis, then, I’ve learned to glance at the big picture – the long, challenging road ahead – and then gaze at what’s on tap for the day so I can be as productive as possible.
But what happens when we reverse the order of glance and gaze? We make a bad situation worse.
That’s because when we gaze too much at problems, we start feeling overwhelmed. All we see is so much uncertainty. So few answers. And we feel completely paralyzed, unable to function and do the important work we should be doing immediately to build positive momentum for ourselves and the team.
When we choose instead to glance at the problem – that is, acknowledge the challenge but don’t dwell on it – we put ourselves in a more resourceful mindset to figure out a solution. Then we can quickly shift our gaze to focus our time, energy and emotions on the task immediately before us to improve the situation.
The bottom line: When we focus on "winning the day" and pour ourselves into our most important tasks today, we can have confidence that tomorrow will take care of itself, no matter how uncertain things seem right now. And it’s that confidence that keeps us calm under pressure.
Sean M. Lyden