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Guest comment: Leadership involves "deliberate calm" and "bounded optimism"

Posted: Thu, May 7, 2020 12:57 PM

(At this week's meeting of the Board of Trustees of Winneshiek Medical Center, a writing was shared by the consulting firm of McKinsey and Company (  We thought it was an appropriate message to pass along during the COVID-19 pandemic):

"In routine emergencies, experience is perhaps the most valuable quality that leaders bring.  But in novel, landscape-scale crises, character is of the utmost importance.  Crisis-response leaders must be able to unify teams behind a single purpose and frame questions for them to investigate.  The best will display several qualities.  One is 'deliberate calm,' the ability to detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how one will navigate it.  Deliberate calm is most often found in well-grounded individuals who possess humility, but not helplessness.

Another important quality is 'bounded optimism,' or confidence combined with realism.  Early in a crisis, if leaders display excessive confidence in spite of obviously difficult conditions, they can lose credibility.  It is more effective for leaders to project confidence that the organization will find a way through its tough situation but also show that they recognize the crisis' uncertainty and have begun to grapple with it by collecting more information.  When the crisis has passed, then optimism will be more beneficial (and can be far less bounded)."