image credit: Sammy Garcia

“Calm seas never made a good sailor.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Former USA President during the Great Depression and World War 11.


 Building a business can be a buzz, but it can also be pressured, confronting and heartbreaking. During your career, you have read books/articles, attended seminars, mentored and guided staff. You have invested in the importance of leadership and your YPO membership symbolises your commitment to be a lifelong learner. How can you now draw on your hard-earned wisdom, connect with your core strengths and lead from that place of fortitude, when you may not know which way to turn?



 One of the best leadership skills you can learn and your ultimate resource in a crisis is to stay calm. Keep calm and carry on is a popular slogan calling for persistence in the face of challenge. It was first used on a British propaganda poster during World War II but now is a common call for resilience. The phrase carry on is often associated with a British “stiff upper lip.” 

 Unfortunately, this approach is translated by business leaders to mean that anxiety must be supressed and soldiering on is the appropriate strategy. However, when we lead solely from our business brain, we ignore important data from our heart, body and spirit. When our physiology, thoughts, emotions and purpose are integrated, we lead holistically and our well-being, relationships and positive influence all expand.



 We all have cognitive biases - our optimism bias towards a rosy future, our illusion that we are less vulnerable than average and in control of life. When you are in start-up mode and in  good times, these biases serve you well, as a business leader. But in crisis times, these protective agents get blindsided. Our ancient survival mechanisms kick in as we experience threats to our survival, and we go into flight and fight mode. The problem is that leaders have followers who look for guidance and direction. Unfiltered anxiety or even just being off centre, quickly unsettles the people you need to step up, to adapt and deliver. Your fear is also a virus.

 The first step is to calmly accept the danger, even though it is surreal and focus on self-management. How you show up in 2020 is how you will be remembered for the next decade.



 Before making important decisions or communicate key messages with staff, try practising 10 leading from your core techniques:


  1. Breathe. The fastest way we relax, decrease our heart rate variability and conserve energy is to time out and take long, smooth rhythmical breaths. Even one minute can centre us.
  2. Check in with yourself regularly and build your emotional literacy by tracking your feelings and appropriately expressing them. Do not repress or numb them with alcohol, drugs or poor food choices.
  3. PauseRespond don’t react. Reflect and draw on your vast experience. You have not been through Covid 19 before, but you have highly relevant skills and attributes.
  4. Focus Keep practising stabilising routines and rituals and have at least one priority to achieve, at any given time of the day. Focus on today, not the future.
  5. Affirm – Silence your inner critic. This is not your fault and you are doing your best; with the data you have at hand. Write down your top 5 strengths and consciously action them.
  6. Shape Up Exercise and eat well. Set yourself a goal to come out of this crisis, fitter and stronger than ever
  7. Be Positive –Daily gratitude practices can literally rewire your brain within a couple of weeks. Focus on opening your heart and expressing empathy, compassion, kindness and generosity. In case you haven’t realised it before, it’s what we all want from our leaders.
  8. Keep Perspective – There is an end point to this disruption and positive growth always comes from trauma. Booms always follow busts. You may have been through bigger life challenges or if not, reflect on the lives of your parents, grandparents or anyone you know who has overcome adversity. Channel their strength.
  9. Connect – Surround yourself with positive, wise people who you trust. Encourage your forum to meet virtually, join the Queensland Chapter weekly huddle, virtually access professional resources like executive coaches and spend time with family, friends and colleagues who motivate and inspire you.
  10. Disconnect – take time out doing what you love – playing music, time in nature, cooking, playing with your kids and pets, watching a movie, reading etc



 Acting calm, by slapping on a brave face is not being calm. We will be experienced as reassuringly level- headed, when we are communicating from the quiet, spacious place that is within us all. We can do this by continually pausing, suspending external chaos and focussing within. Connect with the core leadership mastery, you have developed over a lifetime, to reflect and weigh up priorities to make the best decisions.


As business owners and entrepreneurs, most of us were driven to create something we believe needs to exist. That drive requires ingenuity, creativity, and above all leadership. Stay calm, so you can stay the course, support others and get to the other side of this crisis and feel proud of who you have become.




Maryanne Mooney has never been so inspired to help leaders connect with their potential and encouraging them to act on it. Her goal is to help leaders navigate their challenges and to support their growth. She does this through the power of meaningful and practical conversations. In the past 25 years, Maryanne has worked on five continents with more than 10,000 leaders and teams. Her focus is leadership, team and organization development, across all industry sectors. Her experience includes building two consulting firms that were market leaders. Maryanne lives in Australia and works with leading organizations throughout the world. She is an executive coach, president of the Board for the USA Senhoa Foundation and a YPO Spouse and Certified Forum Facilitator. Maryanne's method to coach leaders develop faster on their journey to wisdom is outlined in her recently published book – The Worthy Leader – From Mastery to Potential. The book is available on her website –

Maryanne will be writing a weekly column in this newsletter, drawing on her book and years of leadership development experience, to provide practical tips about how to be a worthy leader, in troubled times.

Here are two links to two recently published articles: