Three Skills To Master For Effortless Composure

Let’s face it, keeping cool under pressure isn’t easy. When someone is criticising our work, or disagreeing strongly with our perspective, or doing something that is clearly unfair and unreasonable, who hasn’t felt the heat rising and the urge to snarl surge through the veins…

Blurting out something in frustration, or interrupting, or arguing are all signs we’ve dropped our bundle.

We may also be heading for disaster. There are three things at risk when we lose composure:

  1. Relationships
  2. Reputation
  3. Reach

When Tony Abbott said, “taxpayers should not be expected to fund the “lifestyle choices” of Australians living in remote communities”, he did more than ruffle feathers. He betrayed the trust and respect of the very people with whom he had been building bridges. He showed complete lack of understanding of Aboriginal culture and people. For Aboriginal people, custodianship of traditional lands is a deeply felt visceral responsibility going back some 3000 generations. The land is woven into the fabric of their soul. To close down these communities as if the ‘choice’ to live there was somehow akin to the choice between a Porsche and a Subaru showed a depth of ignorance. This is appalling in most, unforgivable in a Prime Minister.

Words matter. Composure keeps us from mangling message and our relationships.

On the matter of Prime Ministers, we need only look to another recent one to see lack of Composure and its effect. Kevin Rudd is firmly tarred as a tyrant due to his frequent hair raising dressing downs. The You Tube video featuring his rant of ‘F’ words while filming a political message shows why so many of his staff ran and ducked for cover when we was around. He often blew his top and ran ram-shod over common courtesies, such as when he verbally abused a flight attendant when his special meal was not available. He says, “I’m only human.” True, he’s human. But don’t we want more of our national leaders than being at the mercy of a temper?

Emotions matter. Composure keeps us anchored in positive ones even when pressure mounts. The ability to observe our emotions without becoming swayed by them is a critical leadership capacity.

Ever worked for a bully? They’re the kind of leader who makes their presence known, their authority felt, and make a point of reminding everyone of their role. People will obey them under duress, do as they’re told, until they can find somewhere else to work. Sadly these ‘leaders’ think they are maintaining law and order. Their real influence and reach is virtually nothing. Given half a chance, most of their ‘followers’ would gladly throw them under a bus, or at least watch happily from the sidelines.

Intentions matter. If a leader is out for their own good, others feel it. This does not build trust, engagement, or any kind of support.

The three critical skills in honing deep Composure are:

  • Message: how will what I say be received by others?
  • Emotions: how am I feeling right now and can I let that ease a little?
  • Intentions: what is my intention here for me, the other person, and the relationship?

Leadership Challenge: What can you do today to practice these skills?

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