Is maintaining Composure in a stressful situation necessary for a senior leader?

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.” – ― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

We can create that space by choosing to pause before responding.

Despite possessing extensive technical expertise, effective communication skills, and the power to lead with gravitas, many senior leaders find themselves grappling with a significant challenge—sustaining a sense of calm and collectedness amidst chaotic circumstances.

In the current landscape post pandemic, this struggle has become increasingly commonplace with many leaders’ norm of work operations being remote. The unprecedented shift to virtual work settings and the constant flux in the economic climate have generated heightened levels of stress and a pervasive feeling of being out of control.

Leaders face mounting pressures, overwhelming responsibilities, and the need to make critical decisions under intense scrutiny. However, when they are unable to maintain composure, they risk falling into reactive patterns, leading to the escalation of conflicts, erosion of trust, and impulsive decision-making with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Why is composure highly needed for a senior leader?

Recognizing the importance of responding with thoughtfulness and composure, even in the face of chaos, is paramount for leaders seeking to cultivate an impactful Executive Presence. It requires a keen awareness of one’s emotional state, the ability to regulate reactions, and the capacity to navigate stressful situations with grace and clarity.

–       A leader’s presence exerts a significant influence on the overall energy and morale within the workplace. When a leader is visibly stressed or agitated, it directly impacts the team’s collective energy, leaving them feeling anxious and less confident about their work and goals.

–       Composure greatly influences the trust and confidence placed in a leader by both internal and external stakeholders. As Stephen Covey said, “Who you are is so loud that I am unable to hear what you say.” People are astute in perceiving a leader’s state of mind, and their ability to remain composed or succumb to stress leaves lasting impressions.

–       The impact of losing composure extends to the quality of decision-making. When a leader allows their emotions to dictate their responses, they are more prone to making impulsive decisions that may not be well thought out or rational. Under stress, the brain’s limbic system becomes activated, hindering the leader’s capacity for logical thinking and reducing their ability to consider all relevant factors.

So, what can be done?

  1. Begin by acknowledging that experiencing stress and losing one’s cool are natural human responses. Acceptance of this fact is the first step towards initiating change. Without accepting the existence of a behavior, it becomes challenging to modify it effectively.


  1. Dedicate time to identify the specific triggers that tend to disrupt your composure. These triggers can vary from events, actions, or even words spoken by others.

    For instance, I had a trigger. If someone interrupted me, I used to get turned off and would start judging the other person. Listing my usual triggers helped me shift the focus form the other person to myself. This practice enhances self-awareness and raises your level of consciousness.

  1. Engage in pre-emptive thinking by envisioning positive responses to potential triggering situations. By mentally preparing beforehand, you create new neural connections in your brain that enable you to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting impulsively. This proactive approach empowers you to navigate challenging circumstances with composure and clarity – helps us respond rather than react!


  1. Incorporate regular meditation or mindfulness practice to strengthen your mental resilience. These practices serve a dual purpose: they increase your threshold for becoming triggered in the first place, and they enhance your ability to recover swiftly in case composure is momentarily lost. By building your mental muscles through mindfulness, you develop a greater capacity to maintain composure in the face of stress and adversity.


  1. Work with an Executive Coach:

If you are a senior leader seeking to build and maintain composure in the face of challenges, you can explore the Executive Coaching Program offered by various Executive Coaches. These programs are designed to help you develop the skills and strategies necessary to navigate stress, regulate reactions, and respond thoughtfully in high-pressure situations.

Through individualized coaching sessions, assessments, and feedback, your Executive Coach will work closely with you and support you in enhancing your self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and communication skills. A lot of senior leaders who go through such programs gain practical tools and resources to manage stress effectively, build resilience, and cultivate a calm and collected presence as a leader.

By investing in your composure, you can enhance team morale, build trust with stakeholders, and make sound decisions that drive success.

By developing strategies to manage stress, fostering self-awareness, and cultivating emotional intelligence, leaders can elevate their ability to respond effectively, maintain relationships, and make well-informed decisions that drive organizational success.

Want to Explore Executive coaching?

If you have any queries or would like to learn more about our Executive Coaching Program, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with Coach Kshitij. During this conversation, you can discuss your specific needs, understand the program in more detail, and address any questions or concerns you may have.

Building and maintaining composure is a journey that requires commitment and support. By partnering with Coach Kshitij, you can embark on this transformative journey and unlock your full leadership potential.

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