As leaders we are exposed to many serious challenges and it’s very easy for us to fall into the trap of showing our emotions, especially when things get tough. This is what distinguishes us though – yes, we are human, but we cannot afford to show our emotions in the heat of the battle… If we as leaders fall apart emotionally, especially in front of others, then everything around us in our organisations will also start to fall apart.

“Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others” – Lao Tzu 

I love this quote because it summarises this topic so crisply. As leaders we should be emotionally intelligent and we cannot afford to allow our emotions to get the better of us, it does not matter what happens. We should be able to hide our feelings, even when things get tough…. Easy? – NO. The right thing to do? – YES. ‘Poker face’ is the term that comes to mind – as leaders we need to learn this skill. One of the directors that I reported to earlier in my career always told us: “Make like a duck”, meaning that even when everything falls apart, we as leaders need to come across as cool, calm and collected, even though we are peddling like mad underneath the surface where nobody can see it – I think this is an apt way of describing this principle.


So, the question is: “How do we ‘make like a duck’?” I can only suggest that you keep on working on your EQ, especially if you have a bad track record at failing yourself in this regard. Even if you have to say: “Please excuse me for a moment” and you go to the restroom to pour cold water over your face, this is better than letting your guard down and acting like a non-leader.


“It takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one”

– Vince Lombardi 

 I would like to restate this quote as a question and apply it to the topic of hiding your panic as a leader from others, and say: “It takes years to build your personal brand equity as leader, why sacrifice and lose it in seconds?”

Good luck with your personal leadership development journey, also in mastering this important area in your life.

– Hekkie van der Westhuizen, director at Saldati.


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