My TimeHop today reminded me of a quote three years ago from George Will that compared Ronald Reagan to a ship captain. George Will said, “He calmed the passengers – and the sea.” On top of that, my Sunday School lesson that I taught over the weekend was about the words of Jesus Christ to his Disciples as he walked to them on the water — “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
All of that added up tells me that I need to be thinking about leaders and calmness in difficult situations.
Leaders Are Calm in Difficult Situations
Calmness and composure are synonymous to me in this context. The composure of a leader is reflected in their body language, attitude, body language, vocal tone, vocal volume, and overall presence. In today’s business environment, it is clear that leadership is not only about elevating the performance, aptitude, and development of our teams – it is also about the environment that we create within our organizations. We are currently in perilous economic times in my industry. Employees are tired of working in survival mode and they want to be part of a workplace culture where they can get back to doing their best work without the fear of being played off.
Leaders who display a calm and composed nature in a crisis situation are naturally “attractive” leaders. Many are drawn to a leader that can be at peace with themselves and in control of their emotions in the midst of life’s storms.
Extraordinary leaders use their emotional intelligence to avoid crisis through maintaining their composure. When all around them are losing their heads, emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their emotions first and they use that knowledge to modify their behaviors and responses appropriately.
Leaders Bring Calm to Difficult Situations
Calmness and composure are as contagious as panic. Leaders who begin to project their own calmness to those around them see that calmness begin to be reflected back as their followers draw confidence and courage from their leader.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples in recent years of bringing calm to a crisis situation is the emergency landing in the Hudson River of a US Airways commuter plane.
Moments after takeoff, US Airways Flight 1549 was struck by a flock of geese, causing its engines to fail. Captain Chesley Sullenberger made one of the most remarkable emergency landings in aviation history by piloting the plane between buildings on both shores and bringing it down safely in the middle of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 onboard.
Captain Sollenberger said this in an interview with Parade magazine:
“It wasn’t until about 90 seconds before we hit the water that I spoke to the passengers. I wanted to be very direct. I didn’t want to sound agitated or alarmed. I wanted to sound professional. ‘This is the captain. Brace for impact!’ ”
Imagine what must have been going through his mind. He had the lives of 155 people in his well-trained hands. He knew that every second mattered. Yet he took the necessary seconds to make sure his emotions were under control and his voice was calm. At a time when every second mattered and every thought needed to be focused on a precise sequence of emergency landing procedures (if there even are procedures for landing a plane in the middle of a river in New York City!), the captain was aware that the choice of his words and even the tone of his voice would send a very strong message to the passengers. Captain Sollenberger understood what great leaders know: their emotions are contagious. And great leaders bring calm to the situation.
Aside from crisis management, these kinds of leaders are able to look beyond the current crisis and see the opportunity that may be rising out of the turmoil or adversity that swirls around them. These leaders can capture the market when others may be running for cover in a mad dash of panic.
What kind of leader are you?
Are others drawn to your leadership style during a crisis? Or are you trying to outrun the team and head for safety and security that may be nowhere to be found? Perhaps YOU are the safety and security that your team needs right now.
Hear the words of Jesus, the greatest leader — “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”