One thing I have noticed about truly effective leaders is that they are able to keep good perspective and know how to effectively handle stress. They are “cool” under pressure.
We tend to think in extremes as it relates to stress. The goal is not to eliminate stress from our lives or we will never grow. Sports psychologist and executive coach Dr. James Loehr noted, “Stress pushes us to expend energy emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Then comes a period of recovery and healing — and growth.”
However, too much stress with no perspective can lead to trouble as well. Author James Allen said: “The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”
My interviewee this week, Mike Morgan, is one of the most effective leaders I have ever observed in keeping perspective and remaining calm in the face of uncertainty.
Morgan, a Clinton native, served as CFO, and later as president, of Bomgar Corp. until he recently accepted a position as a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. Morgan received a bachelor degree in accountancy from Ole Miss and later a MBA from Mississippi College and a Certificate of Professional Accountancy from the University of West Florida.
Morgan, a licensed CPA, began his career as an auditor with Arthur Andersen and later worked for LDDS Communications as a Corporate Development Manager. Prior to joining Bomgar in 2006, Morgan had served as CFO for Touch One Communication, Trinsic and American Healthtech.
Morgan shared, “Stress management doesn’t get enough attention as a leadership quality. At every level of the organization, you have employees that really care about what they are doing and employees that don’t care. The ones that care feel stress, because they want to do a good job. Those are the ones that perform and rise up through the organization. They get more responsibility, so they feel more stress. There is a healthy level of stress that keeps us pushing forward. But there is an unhealthy level of stress that kills performance and can consume people. A leader has to recognize the level of stress of his high-performing employees and help them keep it from becoming unhealthy.”
Morgan also emphasized that perspective is also important for a leader. He noted, “Being able to discern what really deserves your time and attention, and helping employees discern what really matters is a big part of leading.”
Morgan shared with me additional wisdom for future leaders. “Employees need to know you believe in them and you have high expectations,” he said. “They will want to live up to the expectations. When its game time, you don’t hear coaches nitpicking every little flaw of the team. The pregame talk is all about believing in the team and setting high expectations. On Monday you review the film and make some corrections, but pretty quickly you are back to building folks up.”
Morgan helped entrepreneurial founder Joel Bomgar lead Bomgar Corp. through eight years of high growth, which led to a successful recapitalization by TA Associates in May.
After helping with the transition, Morgan decided to pursue teaching full time. He had previously taught part time as an adjunct professor at Mississippi College and Holmes Junior College.
Morgan shared: “I am very excited about the opportunity at USM to work with students and help prepare them for their future. In my brief tenure so far, I have been very impressed with the institution and the quality of students. They are going to keep me on my toes!”
I am excited that these students will benefit from not only Morgan’s expertise in finance and accounting, but also as an extremely effective and balanced leader.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.