In 2002, after becoming President, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was visiting VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre), Trivandrum, where he had worked earlier. In a conference room, he and the scientists were busy, talking like old friends.
As the Trivandrum City Police chief, I was then in charge of the security arrangements.
That day, to our horror, Dr. Kalam came out of the conference room 30 min before schedule and started the journey to the city. We needed 20 min to clear the road traffic and were caught completely off-guard.
In a mild panic, I asked my police officers to clear the traffic ASAP. Soon, the control room reported, “There is a heavy traffic jam on the VVIP route in a few places.”
In a rising panic, I picked up the wireless set to repeat my instructions. My boss, Mr. Vinson Paul, waved his hand and said, “No need, let the officers do their job.”
20 min later, when we reached the city, surprisingly, the roads were fully clear.
In panic, my first reaction was to ‘do something’, even if it did not help. As a leader, managing situations is hard. But much harder is managing your emotions and not coming in the way by fueling panic.
The real mastery we need is not over the world but over our own mind. That is what makes leadership so hard.