Good Leaders Think About What They Think About

By: Sally Bryant DeChenne, President & CEO, BRYANT GROUP

Ever have one of those days? It seems like the world is falling apart around you…but you have a team to lead. People are watching you. People are unconsciously testing your temperature every day. When you’re confident, it helps them be confident. When you’re afraid, they’re afraid. That’s why your ability to take it all in stride is so important.

As Principle 3 of The Eight Principles® states, Leadership Leads™.

So how to do that when there are more fires to put out than hoses of water to aim at them? First, remember that your emotions are driven by your thoughts. And you can make choices about which thoughts are useful and which ones eat away at your confidence. Philosopher Marchus Aurielus said, “The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” So when the next crisis hits (it’s inevitable that it will), ask yourself if you are indulging in any of the catastrophizing “Three P’s.” Am I turning this into a catastrophe by making it Personal, Pervasive or Permanent in my thoughts?

Am I thinking this is Personal? Almost nothing that happens to you, especially at work, is actually personal. Most crises aren’t personal, even when they feel that way. Take yourself out of it. Step outside yourself, and look at the situation objectively. If you have a role in the issue or had a role in creating the issue, take responsibility, but don’t take it personally.

Am I thinking this is Pervasive? Many people take one crisis and extend it far beyond that one situation with thoughts like, “Nothing ever goes my way,” “Everything is blowing up in my face,” or “This is going to ruin everything.” Keep the crisis contained in your thoughts. It might be really bad, but it isn’t *everything* going wrong.

Am I thinking this is Permanent? Even a really really bad day or week or job or boss doesn’t last forever. Thinking things like, “This is never going to change” or “Why does this always happen to me?” are not helpful…or even real. We know the one constant in life is that things change. This will change too. In the meantime, what pieces do you have control over? Concentrate on those.

Whenever it feels like anxiety (okay, or downright panic) is setting in, think through the three Ps. You have choices regarding the quality of your thoughts. The three Ps can help put you back in the driver’s seat so that you can focus on finding solutions.


Sally serves as the president and CEO for BRYANT GROUP, one of the nation’s leading search firms specializing in recruiting and training advancement professionals. She began her advancement career in 1989, serving in both higher education and healthcare before starting her own consulting firm in 2001. She is an award-winning speaker and entrepreneur and is passionate about philanthropy and building powerful teams.

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