Leading Effectively When the Pressure is High with Marc Polymeropoulos

How you carry yourself as a leader can affect every facet of your team. Whether you’re a doctor, a manager, a team captain, or in another leadership role, your attitude and approach will shape the way your superiors, employees, and co-workers interact with each other and you. This week, retired CIA intelligence officer Marc Polymeropolous talks about building strong leadership skills and finding clarity in times of uncertainty. It’s about being motivated to work for the collective good and building up trust and accountability over time.

It’s easy to lead the way when the path ahead is clear, Polymeropolous says. But the path is rarely clear. There will be times when you and your team are under stress or facing challenges, both large and small. It’s in those moments that a leader has to show confidence. And it’s in the times leading up to those challenges that a leader has to be honest and take responsibility, so there is cohesion when it’s needed the most.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Have honest conversations
  • Develop relationships based on trust
  • Focus on what is in your control
  • Take it upon yourself to handle problems as they arise
  • Embrace uncertainty and learn from it


“It’s a brotherhood and a sisterhood where you lead from the front, but you also lead by receiving input from individuals. The final piece is it’s not about you; it’s about the team. Once you make that transition in your mind, things can go much more smoothly.” -Marc Polymeropolous

“You can only control so much. What can you affect in your small circle? That has to do with kind of being mission-focused, driven, having this kind of unit cohesion.” -Marc Polymeropolous

“A lot of it had to do with tough discussions because it does nobody any good to kind of beat around the bush. So, I was always very direct and honest. I think, when you do that, first of all, it sends a very effective message. But it also builds trust with your employees, as well. It also builds trust with the people above you — your superiors.” -Marc Polymeropolous

“So much of what we do in the intelligence world is grey. It is the shadows. So, leading in situations where there is total clarity, where you have complete situational awareness, is easy. Anybody can do that. It could be in my world, in the world of the U.S. military, it could be in banking, it could be in sports. When times are easy, it’s easy to lead. What I’m talking about is when you have times of great uncertainty … Whether you’re a doctor in an ER or an account executive or a manager of a sports team, nothing is ever clear.” -Marc Polymeropolous

“In times of great danger or uncertainty, the leader in the organization has to have a face in which they show confidence.” -Marc Polymeropolous


You can follow Marc Polymeropolous on Twitter @mpolymer. You can follow his work and keep an eye out for the release of his new book on his website, https://www.findingclarityintheshadows.com/.

Mentioned This Week:

The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership by Sam Walker

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Episode 207