Hello again, loyal leaders! Captain Fletch ready for takeoff to another edition of the Leadership Toolbox. Last month we examined the difficulty and importance of critical feedback within an organization. In this installment, I look at another common word often associated with great leaders: composure. Without going to the dictionary, some definitions that come to mind include:
- Keeping your cool.
- Performing well under pressure.
- Being the person everyone can count on.
- And keeping calm in the storm.
As an athlete, I enjoy pressure. I relish the gut feeling that I had to either execute or fail my teammates. That feeling helped create some of the most memorable moments of my life. In baseball, I was best known for producing hits in counts with two strikes. Knowing I only had one more to work with forced me to clear my head and focus on the task at hand: seeing the ball and hitting it.
As I progressed to become a military officer, I faced different kinds of pressure through college and into the start of my career. The piles of work that accompanied my career — the tight deadlines, the complex problems that needed solving — all came with tons of pressure. As I look back on those days, some almost 10 years ago, I wonder how I maintained composure and made it through those moments. The military considers the spiritual aspect of a person’s life critical to their resilience and ability to maintain composure. By “spiritual,” they mean a person’s central beliefs, not any particular religious affiliation.
In my senior year of college, I mentored two underclassmen cadets in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Mentorship is perhaps one of my favorite things to do as a leader. I invested time with my mentees, while others merely watched for passing grades, and tried to help them develop their own leadership perspectives. Part of that involved helping them find their “core” — the spiritual aspect I mentioned. Your core gives you strength in adversity. It could be religious beliefs, a guiding quote or the person you look up to most. Whatever it is, you turn to your core to maintain composure in high-pressure situations. It drives you to execute what may sometimes seem impossible.
Your core gives you strength in adversity. It could be religious beliefs, a guiding quote or the person you look up to most.
How do we help our teams develop composure? First, learn what sits at the core of our people. Knowing what drives our people helps us better communicate. We can tap into that when we need them to keep calm and execute. Second, respect what our people believe, even if we do not understand completely or agree. The military recognizes over 200 faith groups. I have served with people who have vastly different cores than I do. Part of my success as a leader involved a willingness to learn the core of my people and show them I respected it. Then I could explain its importance to the mission. Finally, if a person has yet to find their core, it is our job to help them find whatever it is they believe. Everyone has a core; some just have not discovered theirs yet. Still, do not to force someone to choose your core. Show them how to explore the world around them and decide for themselves.
I often had my college mentees pick random things for all of us to read or watch each week. Whether a book, news article or the occasional episode of “Family Guy,” I challenged them to find a leadership lesson in everything. How did that lesson connect their own core beliefs and personal leadership perspective? In doing this, these young men discovered more about themselves and their beliefs. They learned how they could maintain composure as officers under pressure.
Fast-forward to present day. People often ask me, as the head coach, how I maintain composure in the high-intensity environment of high school baseball. Amid umpires, opposing teams and, at times, upset parents, people always notice how I stay calm and focused. For me, coaching constantly reminds me that my core is my religious faith. I consider it a privilege to serve as a head coach. My job is to lead by example. I could easily join the ranks of coaches renowned for angry outbursts, but consider the challenge of maintaining composure at all times worthwhile.
As you reflect on your own leadership toolbox, consider adding composure. It just might take you from a decent leader and organization to the go-to team everyone wants to work with — especially on difficult projects.
Until next time, Fletch over and out.