100 Ways to Succeed #140:

Stand In Front of the Damn Mirror And Practice Your Confident Look—Until You Get It Right!

As one sage (who he?) put it, "Bosses are not allowed to have bad days—especially on bad days."

I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during the Joe Montana era—that is, when Joe led the now wobbly SF 49ers to four Super Bowl wins in four tries. A lot of Mr. Montana's excellence, it was said, emanated from his near-miraculous ability to make his teammates believe that the impossible was not only possible, but inevitable, right now, and regardless of how dire the straits were. Sure, he had a good coach, a good team, and terrific athletic skills—but that, as his coach, the late Bill Walsh, once told me, was only part of the story. Bill was a master of drafting attitude-and-character-over-raw-skills; and that's why he had drafted Montana in the first place. And that's what Montana delivered with matchless regularity.

You are not Joe Montana. And neither am I. And perhaps, like my wife, you actually hate football. No matter, I'm sure you get my point. If you don't, let me spell it out: At this professionally precarious time, you'd better practice your Joe Montana-Rudy Giuliani 9/11 act. That is, no matter what your fears and qualms are, you have to exude character and confidence—not confidence that we can bring 3,000 people in the Towers back to life, but that we can soldier on, that we can attack the day with vigor and determination, and perhaps even see some good that may well emerge from the bad.

Ms./Mr. Boss, listen up: You are finally doing what you've been paid to do for the last umpteen years—you are called upon to lead in a time of crisis, financial crisis, yes, but also-mostly human crisis.

Advice: Stand in front of the mirror, or whatever, and practice your Joe (or Jane***) Montana demeanor! Until you get it right!

(***As to "Joe" and "Jane," I am fully aware of gender differences. "Steely look of determination" sounds, in retrospect, "very guy" to me. The way in which women-Janes will exude confidence and practice MBWA and tend to relationships is likely to be far different than the typical male-Joe approach. No matter. The leadership necessity is the same—regardless of the way in which it is expressed. Incidentally, or not so incidentally, at times of stress gender differences are likely to be particularly pronounced—and hence the possibility of botched communication particularly high. There is, I repeat, no reason whatsoever to believe that either men or women are better at dealing with tough times—there is every reason to believe that styles will differ.)