November 22, 2011 Executive, Leadership

Composure – A key leadership skill

In my opinion composure and self-control are very necessary leadership attributes. I will take it a step further to say that without it, one can only go so far in a professional business environment.  For some, composure is effortless, seems like it comes as second nature to them. For others, it must be cultivated — and not easily. As I coach leaders, I urge them to explore different techniques or methods to help them control their emotions, especially when the going gets tough.

A good example is a Fire Battalion Chief on the scene of a major fire. Amid the smoke and fire and heat, they typically radiate sheer calmness. Emotions might be roiling inside, but outwardly they are cool as a cucumber.

Their coolness leads to something I call the clarity to see complexity. By not succumbing to the mayhem of chaos, they keep their heads clear to think through the possibilities. In this instant if the Battalion Chief gives into emotions, lives are at a greater risk.

Your situation may not risk lives but letting your emotions get the best of you, limits your ability to focus on the options.

Some techniques that may help:

  • Breathe deeply.      In the heat of the moment, there is a tendency to breathe rapidly. So take  a deep breath. Feel the breath come into your lungs. Exhale, than repeat      a few times. It slows things down, really!
  • Relax your facial muscles. Tension is evident on our faces. So be conscious of how      you look. Rub your cheeks and flex them. Smile if appropriate, as a means      of reassuring others.
  • Keep your voice lower. When tension rises, people speak more quickly and with      more emotion. A leader’s job is to keep calm. So speak slowly and at a      lower pitch. Others will notice and maybe follow suit.

Remaining composed under pressure is not the answer to all leadership challenges, but for my money, I would rather follow an executive who keeps it together than one who is wild-eyed and restlessly pacing.