Everyday Leadership Lessons

I never watch Anderson Cooper. Yet something made me turn on CNN last Thursday night, right after 8 pm.

Within minutes I was riveted. Inspired. And moved to tears.

Anderson Cooper was interviewing Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at the Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, GA. Antoinette’s conduct during her 911 call while a gunman with an AK-47-style assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammo was on a wild tear through the school is an astounding act of leadership. Her demeanor likely prevented a Sandy-Hook-style massacre. In tandem with 911 dispatcher Kendra McKray, Tuff’s poise showed up every politician and business leader whose words ring hollow to the core. And that’s a lot of people.

When Anderson Cooper asked Antoinette and Kendra, who joined the interview, for insights about their reaction to this high-pressure situation, I was struck by the sweet simplicity of their answers.

Yes, their words are pearls of everyday-leadership-wisdom. Two nuggets, in particular, resonated with me. Apply them daily, and every personal transaction you have will be enriched and illumined.

  1. Be anchored

For Tuff, this means a very conscious relationship to her faith. The ability to anchor and consistently re-anchor ourselves is one of the attributes of the exceptional leader. I write about this skill frequently in my Energy Boosts. What “does it” for us tends to be very personal, indeed. It behooves us to know our optimal anchors. And then, of course, choose to remain anchored.Classic anchors: Take a conscious breath. Say a positive affirmation. Shift your physical posture. Visualize a beautiful place/state of being. Invoke your relationship to the divine as you define it.

  1. Be compassionate

Both Tuff and McKray spoke of the ability to show empathy for a person who is in extraordinary personal pain. When someone is pointing an assault rifle at you, this seems near impossible, doesn’t it? But Tuff managed to do just that!Choose to be compassionate even when you don’t agree with what you hear. When you think the other party is unreasonable. When your buttons are pushed by the communication style of the other person.

Being compassionate does not mean we agree with the other party or roll over and don’t state our point-of-view. But our compassion positively impacts the flow of the conversation. Resistance fades. Forward movement is facilitated. And that’s a very sweet thing, indeed.

I sure hope you will not face any high-stakes situation that even closely mirrors what these two exceptional women encountered.

But this week, whenever your emotional heat rises and the pressure mounts, ask yourself: How can I best anchor myself, right now? What can I do to stay compassionate in this moment?