Grace Under Fire

A jaw dropping interview.

An iconic photograph.

And a handful of undeniable lessons highlighting the importance of preparation, composure and unwavering conviction during a high-stakes performance.

These are just three of the neatly wrapped gifts that were hand-delivered on Wednesday and Thursday morning as a direct result of Gayle King’s (co-host of CBS This Morning and Editor at Large of O, The Oprah Magazine) highly anticipated and incredibly explosive two-part sit down interview with R&B superstar R. Kelly (two weeks after being released from a Chicago’s Cook County Jail on a $100,000 Bond for ten counts of felony aggravated sexual abuse).

The interview was a face-off of sorts between an accomplished journalist and an accused sexual perpetrator. Kings questions were focused, direct, and tough. Kelly’s answers were anything but.

As camera’s rolled, and King meticulously addressed the litany of accusations. Kelly responded to King’s unwavering poise with increased frustration. It didn’t take long before his anger became palpable and he desperately tried to deflect and down-play the allegations she presented. King rattled off names, expounded on details and challenged him on previous answers. Kelly’s temper flared and rage erupted as he stumbled through his answers while providing extremely complex and convoluted answers in an effort to share his "side of the story" with the world.

King remained unflappable.

At one point (resulting in the aforementioned iconic photo), Kelly jumped out of his seat, angrily pranced from side-to-side, and began crying and yelling in frustration.

Yet, King remained unmoved. It was as if Gayle King made a secret pledge to herself prior to the interview: "When he goes high, I'm going to stay low… and give him just enough room to play himself," because that is precisely what she did.

The King and Kelly interview was not only one of the biggest journalism scores of the week (it would have been year, but over 30 million people logged onto watch Jordyn Woods interview on the Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett last week), it was also the absolute personification of what it means to remain in control during a chaotic situation—a skill many professional women could benefit from. 


Following below, I've outlined three game-changing lessons that I believe that every professional woman who is ready to elevate her leadership style should embrace. So, grab a pen, Gayle King’s mini Masterclass, Grace Under Fire, is now in session:

1.    There is no such thing as being over-prepared: Whether you are embarking on a job interview, negotiating a new deal, attending a sales meeting, or pitching your breakthrough idea, you must do your homework and be 100% prepared. Put on your “reporter cap.” Dig around. Find out everything there is to know about every angle possible. Look at the situation from the point of view of every person who will be present or need to be represented. Develop thoughtful and insightful questions from your point of view and your opponents. Then, develop clear and concise responses to them all. Your in-depth preparation will allow you to “walk in as if you own the place,” because the more prepared you are, the less vulnerable you will feel. Remember, knowledge is power and it is your responsibility to get some.

2.    Never allow external circumstances to dictate your emotions: This is the Art of War. A psychological game and one you can dominate if you approach it correctly. Consider this: the moment one person yawns, it isn’t long before others begin to follow suit. Why is that? The truth is, we are all a lot more impressionable than we would lead others to believe. So, as easy as it is to launch a room full of people yawning, it is just as easy to trigger a room full of people yelling. But when tempers flare, cool heads no longer prevail. Instead shift your perspective and recognize that the only thing you will ever have absolute control over is your emotions. You must learn to master them. You get to decide how you show up and respond. Decide right now, that you will always be representative of the Undeniably Fierce woman that you are.

3.    Set a Clear Intention: Gayle’s BFF, Oprah Winfrey said she doesn’t do anything without first being 100% clear about the intention behind it. Whether it is a new show, project or meeting, her goal is to have absolute clarity around the objective before it starts. Something tells me Gayle King operates with a similar philosophy. Understanding the end goal is the driving force in determining how you proceed. Case in point: If Gayle’s intention was to allow R. Kelly to show the world who he really is, her ability to reframe, leverage silence and give him breathing room suddenly became an intentional tactic in how the interview was conducted. While another journalist, with a different intention, might have approached it from a completely different angle, or felt the need to “debate” with him.

Now, it's your turn. Start by asking yourself, how do you typically respond when all “hell breaks loose,” Are you the "calm in the stormor are you the "storm itself?" What do you need to do right now to close that gap, if there is one? Fierce women recognize that the ability to self-access is one of the great traits they can possess!

If you are professional woman ready to level up, build a strong and powerful personal brand and dramatically increase your visibility in 2019, take a moment or two and come check out my website: www.PersonalElevation.comtoday. It is filled with tangible tools, strategies and techniques on how to elevate your visibility, credibility and profitability. I also invite you to sign up for my FREE Masterclass: 3 Secrets to Boost Your Status: Even if No One Has Ever Heard of You!


Jennifer Ransaw Smith is a nationally recognized Personal Elevation™ Architect, Leadership Development Mentor and Personal Brand Strategist. She specializes in igniting the visibility, credibility, and profitability of professional women. If you are interested in joining her tribe of “Undeniably Fierce,” women from across the globe or learning how to Boost Your Status, sign up for her FREE Master Class at