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How to Preserve Your Leadership Presence

And how not to lose it.

We’ve all been there.
You’re tired, over-worked, and/or stressed out.
Someone says something, does something, insinuates something, and that’s it.  You lose your composure.
And, you feel totally justified when you do.
In the moment, you may feel right.  You may even feel righteous.
But after time passes, you’ve calmed down and distanced yourself from the situation, you reflect and think:
“Maybe not my best moment.”

You know what I’m talking about
If you’ve been married or in a relationship for a few years, or if you have adolescents in the house, or if you have a truly annoying colleague at work, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t take much for us to recall those moments, when, in the moment we feel fully justified in responding the way we’re doing and feel totally fine saying what we’re saying.
Until later, when we don’t.

What’s at play here?
A few things.
Normally when we’re with others, we self-monitor.  I’m aware when I’m with others that I’m with others.  It’s different, say, than when I’m home alone on the weekend by myself.
When I self-monitor, and more importantly, when I’m able to self-monitor, I’m more aware how I’m coming across, and will likely care how I come across.

But throw in some fatigue, some stress, some heightened emotions, and I may struggle to self-monitor.  In fact, I may not even care or be able to care how I come across.
Moreover, the feelings I’m experiencing conspire to convince me I’m justified in responding the way I’m about to.  Why else would I feel this upset or overwhelmed?!!

Call it what you want: a meltdown, an amygdala hijack, whatever.  Explaining what it is, though, doesn’t seem to prevent it from happening.  And you won’t get much sympathy either:  “Sorry, honey, it was an amygdala hijack.  Surely you understand.”  Not.

So what to do to prevent or at least reduce these occurrences?
Two things.
Two questions to ask yourself:

  1. What impact am I’m looking to have here?
  2. How do I want people to feel about me at the end of this (meeting/discussion/interaction)?

So if after you’ve had a long day at work and your partner is beginning to again say or do that thing that always bugs you…
Or if it’s well past midnight, you’re tired, and you have to get up early for work, and your adolescent once again blows curfew by an hour and shows no remorse…..
Or you’re about to go into a meeting and that colleague who always challenges you in public will be there…..

Ask yourself:
What impact am I looking to have here?
How do I want people to feel about me at the end of this?

Keep these two questions front and center in your mind as you navigate the interaction.

It’s not a magic wand or a silver bullet, but it just may limit the number of times you feel fully justified in the moment, only to regret it afterwards.  And if you need some further encouragement, remember, when you come unglued with your family or other loved ones, usually it’s in private and hopefully they’ll forgive you.
But do it at work, and you’ve done so in a very public way for others, sometimes many others, to experience.
Not the reputation you want to reinforce.