October 19, 2021

C Stands For Calm, Cool and Composed: Lessons from Kanya West, Serena Williams, Joe Williams and Taylor Swift

If you are following my blog, you probably know by now that I am knocking out the alphabet…the A, B, Cs of leadership.

I have been delaying the letter “C”, because I have to tell you…I had nothing…nothing that had been really discussed before.  I thought about collaboration, communication, creativity, blah, blah…boring!  It’s all been said…yes…we all need to be better communicators, we all need to collaborate more, and we can certainly all use a bigger, better dose of creative thinking.

But…what struck me on Monday after Kanye West pulled his little stunt at the VMA awards is that our leaders are not keeping their cool.  For some reason, they think they are entitled to telling the world what they think.   And yes…Kanye West is a leader in the music and entertainment industry.  Even though he can act a bit like a jerk at times, people love his music and his “in your face” approach.  But, on this occasion, he crossed the line. He chose to show up on the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessy drinking from the bottle in front of the cameras and then stole the thunder from Taylor Swift. Her shining moment, first VMA award and he had to march onto the stage to announce that Beyonce really had a better video…YUCK!  The world is now turning on Kanye.  His colleagues are dissing him, his fans are deleting his music from their i-pods and the media is having a frenzy.  I believe Kanye needs a PR damage control consultant.

This incident came on the heels of Serena Williams, another leader in the athletic world, cussing out a line judge for crossing a boundary with her foot.   Once again…why is it necessary to use the language that she used…she basically threw a temper tantrum, and her star power and respect have gone into the ditch in a flash.  She is now being called the female John McEnroe (watch here as McEnroe goes after the judge…looks familiar, eh?. )  Young women all over the world have admired Williams from afar…wishing they could be her…cheering for her and looking up to her.  Not any longer.  While there will always be Serena Williams fans, she just lost a huge following of people.  I will still watch her…she is amazing, but I will be wondering if she is going to lose it and watching for another outburst.

A couple of other examples: Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson shouted out YOU LIE! during a speech by President Obama recently.   And, apparently our own President did not know the audio was still rolling yesterday when he called Kanya a name.

So, here’s the deal.  When you are a leader, all eyes are on you.  If you are saying or doing something that crosses a line…especially in public, you are going to get your hand slapped.   If you have a violent outburst, you are going to lose followers.  On the same note, I completely understand losing your cool one, even two or three times, but when it becomes a repeating pattern, it is time to start implementing a few steps to turn this around.  So, here we go:

1) Know what your triggers are.  Keep those in check.  When you receive a trigger that is going to be followed by an outburst or an inappropriate action, stop the process by getting yourself out of the way.  I know this is not possible on the tennis court, so when you cannot get out of the situation, close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to ten.

2) Write out on paper the triggers that get you fired up, and notice when you are getting ready to move into an encounter, argument, and think of something positive…just do this one time.

3) Walk it off…movement can help.

4) After you get the trigger, write down 10 things you are grateful for.

5) Look more closely at what attention you are seeking.  Maybe it’s time to look for positive attention for doing something great for the world…not for attacking others.

6) Be mature and professional.  Taylor Swift appeared yesterday on The View, and here is how she responded when asked about Kanya West doing his thing:

“Wow, I can’t believe I won… This is awesome… Don’t trip and fall… I’m gonna get to thank the fans, this is so cool… Oh, Kanye West is here!’,” Swift told the ladies on The View, “‘Cool haircut… What are you doing there? And then, Ouch. And then, I guess I’m not gonna be able to thank the fans.’ ”

What a class act this young woman is…we can all learn from her response, and according to an article on Fox News, Swift says she has moved on from this incident.  She is one calm, cool and composed leader.

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