Hot Seat

Hot Seat by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Heat. Sunrise. Heat. Sunset. Sun.  On a recent trip to Cambodia to see the ancient sites of the Khmer Empire in and around Siem Reap, including Ta Prohm (featured in the movie Tomb Raider), I got up early to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. That same evening I rode an elephant up to the top of a ridge, climbed the steps of yet another ancient temple and watched the sunset with hundreds of other tourists.

The picture above is an “unretouched” picture of that sunset. The area is known for amazing sunsets. The sun reflected off water in the distance and clouds (which you can just make out at the bottom of the picture) created mysterious shades of red. I took some incredible pictures that evening of the sunset, as I had that morning of the sunrise – not because I’m a professional photographer, but because the natural world did all the work.

When asked about my trip to Cambodia, I am quick to tell people it was amazing! and it was HOT! As I mentioned in my article last week, my few days in Siem Reap were the hottest days of my life. The combination of heat and humidity was withering. At sunrise that morning, as the sun came up over the horizon, you could feel, taste, and see the heat that emanated from the sun. The same, in opposite, can be said for the sunset. You could feel the temperature change as the big orange-red ball dropped in the sky.

Now, I love the sun. It provides warmth. It helps plants grow. It provides light. And any number of other useful functions. Nothing wrong with having the sun. In fact, I much prefer to live in sunny climates because of the warmth and general “feel-good” response to sunshine.

What I’m trying to stress is the intensity of the sun as I experienced it in Cambodia. Maybe you’ve had this same experience. At the beach. In the desert. In the US. Or Africa. Or the Tropics. Or anywhere. Some days, and some places more than others, give us a more realistic picture of the sun’s intensity. It’s heat. It’s magnificence. It’s HEAT!!! This is what I experience recently in Cambodia.

I’ve also experience heat in desert environments like Phoenix (Sonoran Desert) where the sun causes motorcyclists to burn their hands when grabbing unprotected handlebars and the rear-view mirrors in cars fall onto the floor because the adhesive holding them to the windows melts. I’ve also experienced first-hand the heat of the deep South with high humidity. The heat of Africa. And the heat of concrete jungles (such as Los Angeles, New York, and Singapore) in the summer-time when the heat radiates from the concrete. And the heat of the Amazon jungle. … In sum, if you’ve been HOT, you know what I mean. It sounds silly, but the sun is hot and there are hot climates and environments on the earth in which people live, work, or travel despite the intense heat.

As I was walked around in the heat of Siem Reap drinking water and wiping away buckets of sweat with a hand-towel, I thought about our responses as leaders when we’re in the “hot seat.” When the going gets tough, at work, home or in the community, how do you respond? Do you get irritable and lash out? Do you complain? Do you lose energy?

The world-class leader knows that in the “heat”, more than ever, it’s important to keep calm, remain patience, guard your tongue and develop an appropriate pace. When you’re under pressure, in the crucible, in the furnace, you have to control your thoughts and actions more than ever. You can’t afford an emotional-hijacking to occur. Yes, if possible, get out of the heat. Move into the shade. Get a taste of cool water. But if you can’t easily get out of the heat in the short-term, pace yourself. Be patient. And guard your tongue and attitude. Doing so will enable you to survive.

Of course to the extent possible, avoid creating your own furnace. Sometimes leaders, through dysfunctional behavior and decisions of their own making, put themselves smack into the middle of the furnace. This is the worst type of heat. Self-created. Think ahead about the consequences of your behavior so that at worst, you have to deal with environmentally caused heat versus self-generated heat.

How do handle the hot seat? How do you respond when the going gets tough? How do you guard your tongue?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]

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