Tuesday 25 December 2012

To be, or not to be, that is the question...

These opening lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Prince of Denmark) words were meant to help Hamlet contemplate whether it was better to suffer through life or to put an end to life! In the corporate context it is a choice between succumbing to negativity or thriving against the odds. True leaders do not allow themselves the luxury of pessimism or adopt a fatalistic acceptance of any negative circumstance. They adopt the right attitude to work through a crisis. They take charge. They choose to thrive.

A past manager (a leader) of mine had a distinct bias for action when faced with decision making under uncertainty or intense pressure. I learnt a lot by observing him and talking to him to understand his ability to take decisions “under fire”. Watching him in action made it clear that he was focused on “figuring-it-out” rather than “freezing-up” when making critical decisions.

He had developed a world view where he based his assessment, judgement and reaction to a crisis by evaluating the opportunity cost or flip-side of succumbing to the crisis! For him understanding the opportunity cost of succumbing gave him the fortitude to live up to the adage – “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” (Billy Ocean). However, there was more.

He outlined that even when he had “figured-it-out” and achieved a positive outcome, he would spend a substantial amount of time examining his success and then asking himself — what would he have done if his decision had led to a possible negative outcome? He would examine the possible negative outcomes and use this “self-defeating” scenario building as a pre-emptive tool to create emotional resilience for handling future decisions! This is counter intuitive and some would argue as evidence of self-doubting behaviour but I believe in the logic of creating emotional resilience by any means to ensure a leader does not “freeze-up” when “figuring-out” critical decisions.


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