Shortly after take-off, Captain Sully Sullenberger found himself piloting an Airbus A320 whose engines had just been permanently disabled after hitting a flock of birds. A quick assessment of the rapidly deteriorating situation and brief discussion with aircraft control made one thing clear to him: neither of the two options for returning and safely landing US Airways flight 1549 were likely to get everyone home alive. Instead, he chose a third option on that cold January day in 2009 that did: making a water landing in the Hudson river.
According to Captain Sullenberger, the moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced. Later in an interview with Katie Couric, Sullenberger said “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.” But what was it that allowed Sully to actually make the withdrawal in the first place? The emotional self-management he had developed over those same 42 years.
What it is
Self-management rests firmly on the foundation of self-awareness and is built from there. It allows leaders to focus and direct the energy and attention required to achieve their goals without becoming distracted or sidetracked. Self-management is what allows you to follow your compass, stay on course and arrive at your intended destination, even when internal emotional turbulence is severe and your head gets cloudy. When intentionally and habitually developed over time, a self-mastery results that exudes confidence and is palpable by others.
The self-mastery that flows from self-management allows us to give our feelings their proper place at the proper time. It allows the mental clarity and concentrated energy required to feel our emotions deeply, channel them constructively and reign them in when necessary. Otherwise, the tail (our emotions) can end up wagging the dog (you).
What they Have
Leaders with a high level of self-management consistently demonstrate the following competencies:
- Emotional self-control- are able to manage even disturbing emotions and impulses, often in useful ways.
- Calm under pressure- they remain “unflappable” even in the most difficult situations.
- Transparency- live their values in an authentic and genuine way that demonstrates integrity and engenders trust. they admit mistakes and are willing to hold others accountable as well.
- Adaptability- are able to “roll with the punches” in the face of unexpected change and make intelligent adjustments without losing focus or energy. They have learned the fine art of being comfortably uncomfortable even in the midst of uncertainty.
- Achievement- hold high standards for them and those they lead. They set and achieve challenging but attainable goals that are actually worthy of pursuit and are always looking for ways to do things better.
- Initiative- know what it takes to get where they want to go. They don’t just wait for things to happen, but seize opportunities and when necessary, create them.
- Optimism- have a ”glass half-full” perspective that enables them to recognize the opportunity as well as the threat. They expect positive changes and see the best in others.
What they do
Leaders high in self-management have an informed, energetic optimism that resonates and positively impacts others. That kind of optimism is powerful: it serves as an “emotional contagion” that emanates from the leader and influences the group. Unfortunately, the converse is equally true for leaders with a negative, pessimistic outlook.
I’ll say more about the importance of self-management and how to get more of it in the next post. In the meantime, how does your self-management sit with you? More importantly, how would others describe your self-management and the kind of emotional contagions you spread when you walk into a room?
As with self-awareness, you can take a swag or actually measure your self-awareness level. If you really want to take a good pulse, another tool is to get 360 feedback from those around you, but that’s not for the faint of heart. Regardless, you need to know where you stand if you plan on intentionally growing it, which is a requirement if you want to lead others at a high level.
What’s your best next step here?