Leadership Under Pressure: Bo Parfet’s Advice for Staying Calm During Uncertain Times

Bo Parfet
3 min readDec 9, 2020

As a business and community leader, philanthropist, mountaineer, and naturalist, Bo Parfet has experienced his fair share of crises, navigating indeterminate paths forward in both his professional endeavors and personal adventures.

He has helped lead teams to the top of the world’s tallest peaks, experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows, including the loss of one of his teammates on Mount Everest. Professionally, Bo has been responsible for building a successful real estate investment company and since 2013 has been intimately involved as co-founder and CEO of impact investment organization Denali Venture Philanthropy.

The demanding situations that leaders face over the course of their careers are exactly the moments that define the type of leader they become. Their actions directly impact those working alongside them and can build or harm their reputations in the future.

When faced with emergencies and crises, leaders should aim to remain level-headed to ensure stability in the performance and morale of their teams. The act of “losing your cool” can elicit many negative consequences for the wider business.

Research shows that one in three managers are unable to handle high-stakes, high-stress situations with 53% of leaders becoming more closed-minded and controlling during times of crisis when in reality they should be open and curious.

Recently, Bo Parfet shared his insights on staying calm during times of uncertainty and how to lead effectively in times of crisis. Here are some of the qualities that Bo believes every leader should possess in order to make it through difficult times:

Build your team.

Bo mentions that he learned the importance of building a strong, dedicated team from the time he spent scaling mountains. Being connected to a team of individuals in life’s most daring situations helps us to understand each person’s strengths and opportunities and allows each member of the team to bring their all each and every day.

This strategy isn’t so different from steering a business through times of crisis. Building a team focused on individual strengths and the ability to come together helps tremendously when demanding situations arise.

Be patient and decisive.

The most effective leaders are those who see crises as opportunities to enhance their platforms, making decisions to adjust their current model without hesitation.

While stressful situations may cause confusion or elicit certain negative emotions, it is critical that leaders take time to deliberate and make confident decisions about how to move forward. The worst thing a manager can do is to ‘jump the gun’ without taking time to assess the whole picture.

Stay humble.

As a leader, it can be easy to think that you always have the right answer. However, in times of crisis, it is important to remain level-headed and calm. Ask for input from your team as someone may have navigated a similar situation in a previous life.

A leader that demonstrates the ability to work cohesively and ask for help when necessary will maintain a positive working relationship with their employees, both now and in the future.

Show compassion.

Lastly, leading through times of uncertainty means confusion and stress for the entire team. Remember that employees are the backbone of the organization and that having a strong team is part and parcel of building a strong business.

Take time to check in with dedicated employees to ensure that they are handling the situation in a healthy and positive way. Showing compassion and understanding will help calm the entire team, allowing everyone to focus on the big picture.