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You are in a meeting. You are discussing a difficult topic. Things are getting heated. The volume is starting to increase. Postures all around are getting more aggressive.

What do you do?

Meet the challenge head on? Increase your own volume? Become aggressive? Talk over people? Silence others to ‘win’ the argument?

What about afterwards when you reflect on the situation?

Blame it on a rush of blood to the head?

Self-control is a hallmark of any great leader. The ability to stay calm in trying situations enables us to channel those emotions into something positive.

So how do we gain self-control?

The first point is self-awareness. Knowing when our emotions are affecting us in a situation will help create an early warning system to avoid losing our self-control.

Next is adaptability. We all enter situations with a plan or an expectation about how things will turn out. But when it doesn’t go to plan, the strength to adjust to the new situation will help maintain our self-control.

Finally, show empathy. By understanding the other person’s perspective, removing us from our own thinking and agenda, it helps free us from those stirred-up emotions.

What’s more, by seeing the situation from another point of view, we might be able to innovate and create a solution that works best for both parties.

To be clear, I’m not saying we should give in when a difficult situation arises or acquiesce if things become heated. As a leader we need to be candid, open and able to speak with conviction.

Focus on results and relationships but whatever you do, don’t blame it on a rush of blood to head!

About the song:

This song is a track of the album of the same name. Released in 2002, the recording of the album started just after the terrible events of September 11th the previous year. The album is undoubtedly influenced by those events but this track is apparently a homage to Johnny Cash whom lead singer Chris Martin considers one of “the greatest … men with just guitars”. I chose a live version because it’s a minute longer and includes some very atmospheric guitars. If you want to listen to the studio version click here.