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When dormant, volcanoes are a beautiful sight to behold. They are some of the most majestic structures in the natural world — emoting strength and power, among other qualities — but what’s boiling underneath these ruptures in the Earth’s crust has the potential to level every living thing. Many successful, talented leaders possess a makeup like this; they are impressive, but when provoked can wreak havoc on the people around them.
The volcanic leadership type
If you can be described as having a reactive, explosive personality, take note: This is not necessarily a negative quality. These types often lead with the most passion and inspiration; their sense of purpose is clear, and they are driven toward goals, but they also have a tendency towards quick decisions and a hot temper. This person wants to move forward now, plowing over obstacles. Sometimes, though, these hurdles are people, and such a “business-first” mentality can get in the way of trusted relationships.
Greatest strengths often walk hand in hand with greatest weaknesses, and learning how to best synergize them all is advisable for any leader who wants to expand their influence.
How to manage intensity for good
There are many practical strategies that will help make the best use of a spicy nature. One method I practice in my own life is a 24-hour cool-off period when it comes to key responses and decisions. When I wait a day before replying to a particularly important email, I’m much less likely to regret what I said, or didn’t say.
Put simply, decisions that don’t have to be made today shouldn’t be made today, especially if there’s a degree of emotion involved. If employees are taking advantage of a generous company policy or a manager makes a poor decision, it can be easy for volcanic types to fire off a companywide memo making sweeping changes and/or expressing exasperation, but doing so before hearing all relevant information and taking time to calm your nerves isn’t wise.
Learning the people, places and things that calm you best is instrumental to using this 24-hour cool down period well. I find that meditation, hiking and conversations with trusted advisers are helpful for clearing my head.
Related: Think Fast or Slow: What Should be the Ideal Thinking Speed of an Entrepreneur?
The power of a prioritized workload
An additional method of taming a volcanic personality might strike readers as surprising: maintaining a reasonable workload. Because we eruptive folks are driven, we tend to take on too much, but in doing so tend to make more mistakes. These, in turn, make us more irritable, and also catch the attention of coworkers, who may deliver criticism in response. This is a notably unhealthy cycle. One of the reasons for taking on too much is to demonstrate value, but value is compromised when executing too many tasks.
Good reactivity: thinking on your feet
Reactivity is not an inherently destructive quality: In its purest form, it can be lifesaving. There’s not always time to calmly contemplate actions when working in emergency medicine, trying to prevent a computer virus from infecting a whole system or deciding how to manage an unexpected employee outburst. If you practice the things that calm you during the above-mentioned cool-down periods, you’ll be able to find inner calm in these key moments as well. Meditation “practices” are referred to that way for a reason — you do not perfect their application overnight. Rather than beating yourself up for being rash, take the time to reflect on how things went in a certain scenario and make a plan for how you might like to approach them differently next time, and be kind to yourself in the process. You may be a dangerous volcano on the inside, but you’re still a capable leader who can learn when to temper power and when to let it out.
Related: Simple Ways to Calm Down During Times of Stress and Anxiety