Keep Your Cool — How Great Leaders Maintain Their Composure Under Pressure
From CEOs to firefighters to fighter-jet pilots, the ability to stay calm in a difficult situation can mean the difference between success and failure. You may ask yourself how great leaders maintain their composure under pressure. Composure helps these people make a bad situation better, instilling in them a positive, can-do spirit. So, how do they maintain sanity under stress?
Keeping calm under pressure can test even the best leaders.
Effective leaders know how to regulate and manage powerful emotions. Indeed, the ability to maintain composure and steadiness in times of crisis is a key element of so-called “executive presence.” It not only has a calming effect on others but also inspires confidence.
Leaders need to show more composure than ever before in the workplace.
With the change management requirements, increased marketplace demands and intensifying competitive factors that surround us, leaders must have greater poise, agility and patience to minimize the impact of uncertainty. How they respond to these and other growing pressures is an indicator of their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen.
Sure — it’s easy to be in charge when things are going well.
Anyone can smile, wave, and take credit when spirits are high and everyone is happy. But what happens when things take a turn for the worse? The reaction a leader shows will directly impact the way everyone else handles the situation.
But composure isn’t something that everyone is born with. It’s a fundamental that can be taught, and the right fundamentals can change your life.
Have you ever been under so much pressure that you snapped? Guess what? You could handle much more and remain sane, keeping your cool. This is how you keep your composure when leading teams. Here are 5 tips to help keep your composure under pressure.
Rule #1 - Keep Your Emotions In Check
Seasoned leaders know not to wear their emotions on their sleeves. They don’t yell or get overly animated when times get tough. These types of leaders have such emotional self-control that even their body language does not give them away.
When you allow your emotions to get in the way, employees interpret this as a sign you are not being objective enough and too passionate about the situation at hand.
Strong-willed leaders can maintain their composure and still express concern and care, but not to the point that their emotions become a distraction — or that they can’t responsibly handle the issues at hand. You must not wear your emotions on your sleeves. Leadership demands heightened levels of emotional self-control. When the going gets hard, you need to lead, not to yell. As animated or as disappointed as you may be, you have to keep your cool.
A composed leader is not raising their voice and hitting their desk in anger or frustration.
On stormy seas, when everyone is in panic, you must hold your paddle steady. Try to eliminate the emotional influence and deal only with facts. Emotions blur our rationality and distort the truth. Take a time out and think everything over. Relax your body and avoid the negativity. Bursts of emotions are usually your worst enemy. Instead of yelling, whining or crying — breathe. Acknowledge the fact that emotional reactions are never successful at anything.
When something particularly trying is happening, and you begin to feel your emotions flair, it can be especially hard to keep it together.
This is also true when the situation is frightening. The same area of the brain is activated in times of stress and in times of fear. You can avoid an outburst and control your emotions with a simple trick. When you feel like you’re about to lose emotional control, perform calculations in your head. The premise is that your brain has a hard time working both sides at once, and emotions and analysis occur on opposite sides. By the time you’re finished with your calculation, you should be be able to get a grip on your emotions and determine a plan of action.
Emotional control is a skill that most leaders need to be successful in managing their employees.
Workers often look to leaders for examples of how to behave, especially during times of turmoil and change. Therefore, leaders need to prepare to present a calm, rational front. When leaders have high emotional control, they are seen as more likeable, ethical, and working in the interest of the organization.
Rule #2 - Don't Take It Personally
Leaders shouldn’t take things personally when things don’t go their way. Business decisions and circumstances don’t always play out logically because office politics and other dynamics factor into the process. As a leader, remain calm and don’t get defensive or think that you always must justify your thinking and actions.
You have to have tough skin to be a leader, and you have to remember that leadership is not simply a popularity contest.
It is your responsibility to foster a positive environment, but you’ll never be able to control everyone else’s feelings all of the time. There will always be that one person who seems to disagree with every decision you make. If you take their opinion personally, you’ll stay miserable. You’ll never be a strong leader if you’re held back by other people’s feelings. Always focus on doing your best job. Over the long run, the majority of the team will see you made the best calls.
Business decisions and circumstances don’t always play out logically because office politics and other dynamics factor into the process.
Don’t get defensive or think that you always must justify your thinking and actions when they do. When you take things personally, it’s difficult to maintain your composure and make those around you believe that you have things under control. In fact, when leaders take issues too close to heart, they allow the noise to suffocate their thinking and decision-making capabilities.
When you feel frustrated or just plain upset because of the effects you are allowing a stressful situation to have on you, it’s extremely difficult to respond intelligently and calmly.
Yes, you are allowing this to happen, and when you do, the natural tendency is to respond from your gut and dismiss the potential consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences tend not to be in your best interests and usually make a bad situation worse — not better.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that criticism or verbal attacks you receive are about you or something you did.
But it may simply be about the other person having a bad day, week or year. Or about how they are miserable at their job at this time. And so they release some pent up emotions and tensions at you who is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Remind yourself of this when you wind up in a situation where you are likely to take things personally.
Rule # 3 - Be Accountable
Leaders are most composed during times of crisis and change when they are fully committed to resolving the issue at hand. When you are accountable, this means that you have made the decision to assume responsibility and take the required steps to problem solve before the situation gets out of hand.
The best leaders know that they’re responsible for what the team does as a unit.
The general guideline is to accept responsibility if the team fails, because it is your ultimate responsibility anyway. When the team wins, the leader is going to naturally get praise anyway. You don’t need to make a fool out of yourself by patting yourself on the back. It’s much smarter to pat your people on the back in the moments of celebration. This allows you to build morale for your team that you can use to accomplish bigger things in the future.
The most composed leaders are made during times of crisis. It is the firm resolve to solve the problem that makes the difference.
As a leader, appreciate that no matter whose action or reaction caused the problem, it is your sole responsibility. You cannot remain confident and feel in control by shifting blame. A situation will always arise due to courses of action by different parties. Who did or did not do what was expected. But it is your responsibility to neutralize the problem and lead your team towards achieving the desired goals past the obstacles.
When speaking with your teams, consistently reinforce your organization’s principles and how they are driving decision-making among the leadership team.
Authentically encourage everyone in the organization to let those principles be their guide in challenging times. In dynamic situations, individuals who have these core values at the top of their minds when making decisions will act with the interests of the organization and will make more effective decisions with better outcomes. Principles exist to define the character of an organization, and they can provide every team member with strength, direction, and affirmation in the most challenging times.
Once you fully understand what you are up against, you can develop a step by step plan to get you to your goal.
One tactic successful people use is back-casting, where they think about the final objective they are working towards and identify each step they need to reach on the way to achieving it. From there it is easy to determine when each step needs to be completed to stay on track. Nothing helps you stay calm like a clear plan of attack.
Rule #4 - Respond Decisively
Leaders who maintain their composure will never show any signs of doubt. They speak with conviction, confidence and authority — whether they know the answer or not! With their delivery alone, they give their employees a sense that everything is under control.
You can’t be wishy washy and lead. You cannot be timid and lead. You have to be bold.
If you’re not confident in your decisions no one else on the team will be either. So get your facts, evaluate the information, and make a definite decision. Then announce it with confidence. The first person you’ve got to convince that you’re doing the right thing is yourself. Once you’ve convinced yourself, then you can convince your team. You can walk them through your deliberation process, and you can request their feedback before your final decision.
Whether you know the answer or not, you must take the lead. Inspire confidence and a sense of direction because after all is said and done, you are the go-to person.
Most of the situations are hazy but as leaders we should know what we should give up on and what we should not. In my opinion, anybody in the leadership team who is overtly negative about the situation or losing composure should be spoken to and should be helped. But be decisive have a timeline till when you will take the negative attitude, if the attitude continues be decisive and give stern warning. Do not allow people to further dampen the environment.
Always be direct about what you know and honest about what you don’t.
People do not expect their leaders to have all the answers, but they want to know that leaders have the facts and are actively charting a course that considers the most recent information. Calmly sticking to the facts, limiting speculation, and basing comments on the realities of the situation will add composure and reassure individuals that leaders are alert at the helm.
Align your gut, heart, and mind; then take action. Be ready to focus on your outcome while maintaining situational awareness on your process.
When you need to adapt, change your tactics, and move into what’s working. Flexibility always wins, just like water erodes rock. To survive, you have to prevent yourself from taking criticism and failure personally, and instead learn the lessons you need to and move forward. There is no failure, only feedback when you learn the lesson.
Rule #5 - Find The Silver Lining
Even in failure, you will find a lot of growth opportunities. Failure is never 100% failure. It just means that you missed your main target. Overall results vary, so for every time that you’ve tried, inevitably some things went well. Move forward by focusing on these things.
There are always silver linings to focus on.
Make sure you find them. Remember that someone had to do a lot of hard work to make those things happen. You don’t want them to be taken for granted in the present because they were ignored in the past. The silver linings are the rewards which you can take away from every project. Always acknowledge them.
Your people are always watching their leader’s actions, behavior, relationships and overall demeanor.
During the most difficult of times, leaders must maintain a positive mental attitude and manage a narrative that keeps their employees inspired and hopeful. This is where your leadership experience and resolve can really shine — by staying strong, smiling often and authentically exhibiting a sense of compassion. Leaders set the tone for the organization they serve. A positive attitude can neutralize chaos and allow a leader to course correct through any negativity.
You need to set the right tone for your organization. Your positive attitude will go a long way to neutralize chaos and enable your leadership to progress beyond any negativity.
Keep a positive mental attitude. It will not only keep your team inspired and hopeful but also build positive momentum for the betterment of the entire team. Humans often dramatize things that do not need to be dramatized. Everyday tasks and pressures often have us going haywire. Thus, it is important to ask yourself what the consequences to your fears maturing will be. If it is not the end of the world, then you certainly need to relax.
Having a negative attitude about the challenges you face is a great way to snowball into feeling overwhelmed.
Look at obstacles as opportunities to learn and tough assignments as chances to show the world what you are made of. Be confident in your ability to slay whatever dragon lies ahead. If you ever find yourself on a deck of an aircraft carrier, you are likely to hear pilots ripping on each other and joking around about the imminent danger they face on a daily basis. It isn’t that they don’t feel fear; it is that they manage it through humor. Laughter releases hormones that calm you down and allow you to be in control.
Panic is one of the most cunning of emotions. It inhibits our ability to think and act. Learning how to control your mind and body you is the only solution to keeping your cool when the going gets tough.
It’s easy to lose composure during times of crisis and change if you let concern turn into worry and worry turn into fear.
By maintaining composure, the best leaders remain calm, cool and in control — enabling them to step back, critically evaluate the cards that they have been dealt and face problems head-on. A show of composure also puts those you lead at ease and creates a safe and secure workplace culture where no one need panic in the face of adversity.
Engage your teams openly, calmly, and consistently, and you will all emerge stronger and more dedicated on the other side.
As a leader, you need to be confident, positive, self-controlled, accountable, and to calculate your moves under situations of extreme pressure and uncertainties to remain composed as you lead. You are the lighthouse that shows your team the way, so you must keep your head when all your team members are losing theirs.
You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
Even in times of crisis, remain optimistic and constructive toward your employees. Even if you’re facing an exit, it won’t help you, your employees or your business to lead with a lack of professionalism. It is often in crisis when we learn to be the best leaders we can be. Stay composed and good luck!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.