Sunday, November 14, 2010

Composure and Consequence: Understanding Your Temperament as a Leader

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.
- James Allen

A story is told of actress Carol Burnett who stepped out of a cab one day and caught her coat in the door. The driver was unaware of her plight and slowly began to edge out into the traffic. To keep from being pulled off her feet, the comedienne had to run along side down the block.

A passerby noticed her predicament and quickly alerted the driver. He stopped, jumped out, and released Miss Burnett’s coat. “Are you all right?” he asked anxiously. “Yes,” she gasped, “but how much more do I owe you?”

This humorous illustration is an example of keeping ones composure in difficult situations. As a leader your composure is going to be tested and your team is looking to you to see how you will respond. Your response is a signal to others that the waters are fine or it’s time to jump ship. Are you mindful of the signals you give? Are you aware of the consequences? Here are a few tips to help you keep your composure and understand the consequences.

Composure is a confidence builder. There is always an element of surprise in the unexpected. As a leader how you respond when things do not happen as anticipated is your moment to either build confidence or send the wrong signal.

When President Reagan was shot early in his presidency it was a frightening time. As the president was placed on a gurney and prepared for surgery it was reported that Reagan, in his folk some way said to the doctors, “I hope you are all Republicans.” Even in a moment of great national and personal consequence he delivered a sense of stability in the midst of tragedy.

The leader who keeps his composure is the one who delivers confidence. And in the midst of turbulent times you can communicate the message that in spite of the circumstance things are going to be fine. Floyd Filson said, “He can inspire a group only if he himself is filled with confidence and hope of success.” And this is why composure is so important. As goes your composure so goes the confidence of your team.

Composure is momentum builder. When you exhibit composure in the day-to-day execution of your responsibilities as a leader, you not only instill confidence for your team but give them traction in moving forward. The momentum your team needs to succeed is built through trust in your leadership.

A story is told by former Miami Dolphin player Bob Kuechenberg as to what motivated him to go to college. He explains, “My father and uncle were human cannonballs in carnivals. My father told me, “Go to college or be a cannonball.” Then one day my uncle came out of the cannon, missed the net and hit the Ferris wheel, I decided to go to college.” The momentum your company needs to succeed is attributed to your composure at the helm. Lead with confidence and the momentum will follow.

Composure is a success builder. When you maintain your composure as a leader, you become a magnet that others are drawn to. While others are scrambling and are in a panic, there is an endearing quality about a leader who is calm and composed.

In 1917 at the age of 67, Thomas Edison’s lab was destroyed by fire. While a setback by anyone’s standards, Edison forged ahead. Within a matter of a few weeks Edison produced the first phonograph. At the time Edison was quoted as saying, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”

Composure will not exempt you from challenges, setbacks, or failures, but it will determine how you will move forward. As you lead with a steady hand and a quantifiable confidence, you can lead your company to success.

Your composure has consequences. Make sure the signals you send conveys the message you want delivered. As you understand the power of your composure you will lead with meaningful purpose.

© 2010 Doug Dickerson

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