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Calm the raging furies to lead

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

For Josef von Rickenbach, chairman and chief executive of Parexel International Corp., calm, cool leadership starts with your perspective. He strives to stay grounded and calibrate his response. If you react too impulsively to every bit of good or bad news, you’ll exhaust yourself and your employees.

As founder of Parexel, a biopharmaceutical services company in Waltham, Mass., von Rickenbach has spent 28 years building the firm from the ground up. He attributes his success to two words: keep moving.

“You have to keep rolling with the punches and keep your eye on the goal line,” he says. “We’ve had so many ups and downs over the years. You need the fortitude to get through each problem and keep moving.”

To persevere amid adversity, it pays to stay calm. Employees look to their managers for cues on how to respond to crises. If they see their leaders panicking or sweating over every setback, they may succumb to fear.

Try to take most external events in stride. Even when you hit land mines, you want everyone on your team to think, “This may get worse before it gets better, but we’ll make it through this.”

Finding a healthy outlet for your most intense emotions can preserve your mental and physical health. Whether you meditate, play tennis or simply take long walks to clear your head, it’s important to remove yourself from the heat of the moment to compose yourself.

If you’re emotional by nature, guard your privacy. Set aside pockets of time without others around to process what’s swirling around you.

“I don’t get too devastated on the downside and I don’t get too excited on the upside,” von Rickenbach says. “During ups, remember how it felt to be down. Don’t start to believe it’ll be good forever.”

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