7 Steps for Maintaining Your Composure in Times of Chaos

During times of uncertainty and adversity you must avoid making your people feel unsafe and insecure. Here are seven ways to maintain leadership composure during the most pressure-packed moments.
7 Steps for Maintaining Your Composure in Times of Chaos
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Let’s face it: Uncertainty is the new normal and growing tensions between leaders and their employees are creating challenges like never before. This requires those leaders to act and face change fearlessly and authentically. They must have the wisdom and courage to step back, be a little vulnerable and then influence the outcome – all while keeping the people they answer to calm.

As a result, 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 leaders respond to these and other growing pressures is an indicator of their leadership preparedness, maturity, and acumen that encourages an optimistic, glass-half-full environment where employees are free to share their ideas and ideals.

The composure of a leader is reflected in their attitude, body language, and overall presence. In today’s evolving business environment, it is clear that leadership is not only about elevating the performance, aptitude, and development of people but more so about the ability to make people feel safe and secure. Employees have grown tired of working in survival mode and thus want to be part of a workplace culture where they can get back to doing their best work without the fear of losing their jobs. In fact, the 21st-century leader sees adversity through the lens of opportunity. 

When leading – especially during times of uncertainty and adversity, crisis and change – you must avoid making your people feel unsafe and insecure. Here are seven ways to maintain leadership composure during the most pressure-packed moments:

1.  Stay Passionate but Don’t Allow Your Emotions to Get in the Way

Seasoned leaders know that passion is everything and burying their emotions is futile. But that doesn’t mean we can wear our emotions on our sleeves, especially when cooler heads must prevail. Don’t yell or get overly animated when times get tough. Keep positive body language. Without these things, employees interpret you as not being in control and too passionate about the situation at hand. Strong-willed leaders can maintain their composure and connection, expressing concern and care, without their emotions becoming a distraction.

2. Don’t Take Things Personally

I know this seems ridiculous to say in light of how our Donald Trump uses Twitter but there are exceptions to every rule, even this one: Leaders shouldn’t take things personally when things don’t go their way – eventually it backfires. 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.

3. Keep a Positive Mental Attitude

Employees 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.

4. Remain Courageous

During uncertain times, leaders must remain fearless. I’ve been through ups and downs in my career and have learned that when you begin to fear adverse circumstances, you not only put yourself in a position of vulnerability, but it becomes extremely difficult to act rationally and focus. When you panic, you mentally freeze. If you begin to get fearful, ask yourself: What is the worst possible thing that can happen? When you have the will and confidence to face that, you will realize that the situation is manageable and can be resolved.

5. Respond Decisively

Donny Deutsch said it best in the title of one of his books: Often Wrong, Never in Doubt. 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! Because they believe it and instill that belief in others – even in the darkest times.

6. Take Accountability

Leaders should be most composed during times of crisis and change and be fully committed to resolving the issue at hand. When they are accountable, this means that they have made the decision to assume responsibility and take the required steps to problem solve before the situation gets out of hand. When leaders assume accountability, they begin to neutralize the problem and place the environment from which it sprung on pause.

7. Be Willing to Listen and Remain Vulnerable

Great leaders know that one of the most effective ways to maintain composure during difficult times is to act like you have been there before. Leaders that make others feel they have been through the problem-solving process numerous times before are those with who approach the matter at hand with a sense of elegance and grace. They are patient and active listeners, and they will genuinely take a compassionate approach to ease the hardships that anyone else is experiencing. They give you hope that the problems will soon be solved – and they are affected as deeply as you are.

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 needs to panic in the face of adversity.