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Deliberate Calm

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Deliberate Calm

How to Learn and Lead in a Volatile World


15 min read
8 take-aways
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What's inside?

Leaders who remain deliberately calm can master themselves and handle challenging circumstances.

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Self-mastery is the path to success, write McKinsey experts Jacqueline Brassey, Aaron De Smet and Michiel Kruyt. Their “Deliberate Calm” program draws from advanced neuroscience and leadership development practices to teach leaders how to handle challenges and crises with focus, resolve and self-discipline. They tell leaders how to manage their internal emotional environment and their external circumstances by following a four-week self-governance program and exercising four main skills,“adaptability, learning agility, awareness and emotional self-regulation.” The information on learning agility is sparse, but they present the other three areas and their self-development program with clarity and expertise.


When pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed a commercial jet in the Hudson River, he exemplified “Deliberate Calm.”

In 2009, when a bird strike knocked out his airplane’s engines, pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger didn’t hit the panic button. Nor did he follow the advice of concerned air traffic controllers who told him to try to return his damaged plane to the airport. Instead, Sullenberger decided to carry out an emergency landing in the nearby Hudson River. In the calmest and the most deliberate manner, he saved the lives of his passengers and crew.

Sullenberger exemplified Deliberate Calm. While you may not be an airline pilot, you will face unexpected events when you must put aside emotion and fear, and think and act with clearheaded logic and intentional calmness.

Deliberate Calm calls on four skills: “adaptability, learning agility, awareness and emotional self-regulation.”

With Deliberate Calm you will learn to maximize your awareness, pause under pressure and make vital choices with full intention. Being deliberate means being aware of your “external environment” – the world around you – and your “inner environment” – ...

About the Authors

Jacqueline Brassey is a senior knowledge expert in McKinsey & Company’s People and Organizational Performance Practice. Aaron De Smet is a senior partner at McKinsey. Michiel Kruyt is a boardroom consultant and a McKinsey alum. 

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