We again continue the discussion of leadership and the Five Factor Model (FFM), which can be remembered with the mnemonic OCEAN. Remember, skillful leaders have been shown to be high in Openness (O), Conscientiousness (C), and Extraversion (E), and low in Agreeableness (A), and Neuroticism (N). Today we will discuss neuroticism. However, since this a trait that skilled leaders have been shown to be low in, I have taken the liberty to title this post “nerves of steel.” I had to have something that began with an “N.” 😉

The fifth personality trait of the FFM is neuroticism: This refers to a person’s emotional stability and impulse control. A person high in N tends to experience negative emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, and frustration. A person low in N tends to be able to remain calm in aversive situations and have a high tolerance for stress. Here are some tips to feel cool under pressure.

1. Identify the stressor. First things first, you have to recognize why you are stressed, frustrated, or angry. You might have just snapped at your coworker for not responding to an email yet you are really upset that corporate just informed you that your team’s productivity is low for the quarter. When you know the trigger, you then know where to direct your energy.

2. Put things in perspective. Once you have recognized the stressor, take a step back and evaluate whether your response is in proportion to the trigger. Often it will not be, as we tend to catastrophize outcomes. Rate your stress on a level of 1-10. Then rate objectively how much significance the issue in question carries on that same scale. If they do not line up, readjust.

3. Choose your response. Repeat to yourself, you may not be able to change the stressor yet you can change your response to it. When you feel in control of your emotional response and empowered to make different choices, you will find you are better able to remain calm and more productively address the stressor.

4. Be nice to yourself. Take some time for self-reflection and monitor your inner voice. Chances are, you will find that your inner voice is at times not very nice. You might find yourself thinking, “I’m going to mess up that presentation,” “I can’t believe I missed that error, what a stupid mistake,” “My boss seemed to hate my proposal.” Think about how you would react if someone else said this to you and then react the same. You should be as nice to yourself as you are to others.

5. Have good self care. I know you hear it all the time, how important self care is. And I will repeat it again. Everyone feels stressed at times. You need to have skills to take care of your emotional self or else your emotional self is going to be a hot mess. Click here for a previous blog on self-care with additional tips.

Click here for part one on openness, here for part two on conscientiousness, here for part three on extraversion, and here for part four on agreeableness.

I hope you have found this series helpful and now know how to set forth being a better leader developing openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, assertiveness, and nerves of steel!