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One Path To Grace Under Pressure

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

From his studio apartment in Paris in 1926, Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which he referred to a mutual friend having “guts”. A few years later, a magazine reporter pressed Hemingway further, asking what he meant by “guts”. He then elaborated tersely: “grace under pressure”.


The interchange became known as Hemingway’s definition of “courage”, as in “courage is grace under pressure”. You can find this in thousands of references, from posters to greeting cards. Regardless of its evolution, I find the definition very meaningful to anyone who stands up and does the right thing, remaining calm in the face of stress and opposition, even when those around you do not.


Leaders in education display this sort of courage on a daily basis. Leaders in private enterprise also strive to have such courage. Having been a leader in private and public environments, I can assure you educational leaders withstand twice the pressure to perform with half the salary of their private enterprise counterparts.


In my most recent blog, I stated that we are surrounded by anger and that “anger is like stupidity and grass: it’s everywhere.” In the face of rampant and relentless anger, educators, especially educational leaders, are required to summon courage - grace under pressure - every day.


For teachers, this courage is challenging though somewhat more achievable since they have other teachers with which to commiserate, share, and find support. They believe, collectively, that they are on a loosely-formed team which has one another’s back.


But school principals? They’re on their own.


You might think that school principals surely have the support of their supervisors, such as regional or area superintendents. Think again.


Parental or community pressures make those supervisors more prone to capitulate since their politic often means giving in to irrational and mistaken parents rather than supporting the seasoned school leader. Their behavior cannot be described as “courageous.”


No, principals are often thrown under the Political Bus by their own supervisors because doing the right thing often puts them out on a high wire with no net in sight. It requires grace under pressure, or courage.


How does one maintain “grace” while under pressure? It is much more understandable that a leader “survive” or “withstand” or “combat” pressure.


But “grace”? Come on, get real.


I contend that this form of courage, “grace under pressure”, is indeed achievable and can be developed into a behavior that is practiced so often it becomes part of the exceptional leader’s natural behavior. Leaders who are looking for the way to exceptional performance need to know the paths they must take to become exceptional.


They need The Map to Courage©.


I have developed what I call The Map to Courage© over almost 40 years of extensive experience coupled with research in leadership and organizational management. Over those four decades, I have had the opportunity to study leadership theory followed by continual hands-on leadership experience. In my blogs (and vlogs) over the next few months, I will reveal portions of The Map to Courage©, the tentative title to my new book.


In the process of cobbling together The Map to Courage©, I have learned many things which relate to acquiring the courage demanded of the exceptional leader. One key characteristic which the exceptional leader absolutely must develop is that of “grace”.


To be courageous, one must have grace. Grace is a combination of calm, focus, and broad vision. There is a certain amount of artistry in grace which is as much innate as it is learned. There is a level of grace within each of us, but this precious commodity is often suppressed to extinction. Inner grace can and must be awakened for a leader to be exceptional.


Pressure, in the modern world, is in abundant supply. Remember, we are surrounded by anger. If you are a leader in any organization, pressure will come to you.


One path to grace is essential to the exceptional leader: understanding The Mad Mountain©.


The Mad Mountain© is a concept that helps any leader perform with courage - grace under pressure. Let’s look at the basics.


When you are confronted by an angry person, keep in mind the following realities:

· People are less angry when they are seated. Take the time to find a quiet office with chairs that face on another. If one or more people are standing, anger is intensified.

· Anger is a secondary emotion. Some other emotion like fear or embarrassment is the primary emotion that gave rise to the anger.

· Don’t take it personally. Remember, this is probably a “drive-by shouting” - that is, the anger isn’t directed to you personally, but since you’re the leader, you get to field the complaint and therefore stand in the line of fire.

· It’s part of a leader’s job. Angry people often need to express their anger to someone in charge. That’s you.

· Let them vent. If you try to address their argument before they have had a chance to fully express themselves and unload their stress, no rational, productive conversation can occur.


They have to “climb” The Mad Mountain© first. As a person climbs The Mad Mountain©, they begin their interchange with you with an elevated voice, agitated demeanor, face twisted in discomfort, and sit on the edge of their chair. As they reach the peak of The Mad Mountain©, they begin to repeat themselves, their face and voice start to relax, and they begin to sit back in the chair.


The unsuccessful leader interrupts this angry person or tries to offer a counter argument before the angry person reaches the peak of The Mad Mountain©. You, the leader, must allow them their opportunity to climb The Mad Mountain©. This just makes them angrier still and puts resolution further out of reach.


Once these very visible signs of reaching the peak of The Mad Mountain© are recognized, only then can the leader begin to address the issues properly. Only then can the leader solve the problems they were hired to solve.


Of course, once the angry person has climbed The Mad Mountain©, a great deal of their anger has been released. The leader must be calm - graceful, if you will - while The Mad Mountain© is climbed.


The Map to Courage© includes many paths to grace under pressure. I have found this technique of allowing angry people to climb The Mad Mountain© immensely helpful. Exceptional leaders understand that, by granting all constituents access to The Mad Mountain©, leaders are not only on the path to grace, they are well on their way to exceptional performance.


©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.One Path To Grace Under Pressure: Through The Mad Mountain©


From his studio apartment in Paris in 1926, Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which he referred to a mutual friend having “guts”. A few years later, a magazine reporter pressed Hemingway further, asking what he meant by “guts”. He then elaborated tersely: “grace under pressure”.


The interchange became known as Hemingway’s definition of “courage”, as in “courage is grace under pressure”. You can find this in thousands of references, from posters to greeting cards. Regardless of its evolution, I find the definition very meaningful to anyone who stands up and does the right thing, remaining calm in the face of stress and opposition, even when those around you do not.


Leaders in education display this sort of courage on a daily basis. Leaders in private enterprise also strive to have such courage. Having been a leader in private and public environments, I can assure you educational leaders withstand twice the pressure to perform with half the salary of their private enterprise counterparts.


In my most recent blog, I stated that we are surrounded by anger and that “anger is like stupidity and grass: it’s everywhere.” In the face of rampant and relentless anger, educators, especially educational leaders, are required to summon courage - grace under pressure - every day.


For teachers, this courage is challenging though somewhat more achievable since they have other teachers with which to commiserate, share, and find support. They believe, collectively, that they are on a loosely-formed team which has one another’s back.


But school principals? They’re on their own.


You might think that school principals surely have the support of their supervisors, such as regional or area superintendents. Think again.


Parental or community pressures make those supervisors more prone to capitulate since their politic often means giving in to irrational and mistaken parents rather than supporting the seasoned school leader. Their behavior cannot be described as “courageous.”


No, principals are often thrown under the Political Bus by their own supervisors because doing the right thing often puts them out on a high wire with no net in sight. It requires grace under pressure, or courage.


How does one maintain “grace” while under pressure? It is much more understandable that a leader “survive” or “withstand” or “combat” pressure.


But “grace”? Come on, get real.


I contend that this form of courage, “grace under pressure”, is indeed achievable and can be developed into a behavior that is practiced so often it becomes part of the exceptional leader’s natural behavior. Leaders who are looking for the way to exceptional performance need to know the paths they must take to become exceptional.


They need The Map to Courage©.


I have developed what I call The Map to Courage© over almost 40 years of extensive experience coupled with research in leadership and organizational management. Over those four decades, I have had the opportunity to study leadership theory followed by continual hands-on leadership experience. In my blogs (and vlogs) over the next few months, I will reveal portions of The Map to Courage©, the tentative title to my new book.


In the process of cobbling together The Map to Courage©, I have learned many things which relate to acquiring the courage demanded of the exceptional leader. One key characteristic which the exceptional leader absolutely must develop is that of “grace”.


To be courageous, one must have grace. Grace is a combination of calm, focus, and broad vision. There is a certain amount of artistry in grace which is as much innate as it is learned. There is a level of grace within each of us, but this precious commodity is often suppressed to extinction. Inner grace can and must be awakened for a leader to be exceptional.


Pressure, in the modern world, is in abundant supply. Remember, we are surrounded by anger. If you are a leader in any organization, pressure will come to you.


One path to grace is essential to the exceptional leader: understanding The Mad Mountain©.


The Mad Mountain© is a concept that helps any leader perform with courage - grace under pressure. Let’s look at the basics.


When you are confronted by an angry person, keep in mind the following realities:

· People are less angry when they are seated. Take the time to find a quiet office with chairs that face on another. If one or more people are standing, anger is intensified.

· Anger is a secondary emotion. Some other emotion like fear or embarrassment is the primary emotion that gave rise to the anger.

· Don’t take it personally. Remember, this is probably a “drive-by shouting” - that is, the anger isn’t directed to you personally, but since you’re the leader, you get to field the complaint and therefore stand in the line of fire.

· It’s part of a leader’s job. Angry people often need to express their anger to someone in charge. That’s you.

· Let them vent. If you try to address their argument before they have had a chance to fully express themselves and unload their stress, no rational, productive conversation can occur.


They have to “climb” The Mad Mountain© first. As a person climbs The Mad Mountain©, they begin their interchange with you with an elevated voice, agitated demeanor, face twisted in discomfort, and sit on the edge of their chair. As they reach the peak of The Mad Mountain©, they begin to repeat themselves, their face and voice start to relax, and they begin to sit back in the chair.


The unsuccessful leader interrupts this angry person or tries to offer a counter argument before the angry person reaches the peak of The Mad Mountain©. You, the leader, must allow them their opportunity to climb The Mad Mountain©. This just makes them angrier still and puts resolution further out of reach.


Once these very visible signs of reaching the peak of The Mad Mountain© are recognized, only then can the leader begin to address the issues properly. Only then can the leader solve the problems they were hired to solve.


Of course, once the angry person has climbed The Mad Mountain©, a great deal of their anger has been released. The leader must be calm - graceful, if you will - while The Mad Mountain© is climbed.


The Map to Courage© includes many paths to grace under pressure. I have found this technique of allowing angry people to climb The Mad Mountain© immensely helpful. Exceptional leaders understand that, by granting all constituents access to The Mad Mountain©, leaders are not only on the path to grace, they are well on their way to exceptional performance.


©️Copyright by David Samore. Excerpts in part or whole may not be used without the expressed permission of David Samore.





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