A recent article in Inc magazine, Bob Sutton was asked some interesting questions about leadership…here some of what he had to say.

“In tough times, what leadership traits are the first to go out the window?

The ability to look at things in a cognitively complex way. The more stress you are under, the more you oversimplify things. You tend to grab the first decision. It’s really easy to become selfish and stupid. Look at Tony Hayward’s performance after the BP oil spill.”

This quote really spoke to me. Mr. Sutton’s comment is really a combination of two things – (1) decision making and (2) character development.

I’ve recently been involved in some executive coaching. The experience has been amazing.

One of the principles of coaching or executive development involves highlighting your weaknesses and strengths.

When a leader is under stress, there is temptation to utilize their strengths in a negative way. For example, one of my strengths is decisiveness. I can look at a rather complex issue and make a decision fairly quickly. However, I have to be careful because if I’m too decisive (meaning I don’t take in all the information necessary) I can increase the potential to make a wrong decision. Keeping your calm in stressful situations is critical to “look at things in a cognitively complex way”.

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