Business Composure and Leadership

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Never let ’em see you sweat. Leadership in any sector — business, government, non-profit, or military — depends on image. Personal presentation.

Steve Rucinski, who blogs at Small Business CEO and Small Business Trends Radio, comments that,

The …lesson I learned early in my business career … is ‘business composure.’ People respect that composure even when circumstances are hectic. My belief is composure is not stilted, never out of control; passion yes, anger no.

Steve’s insight can be used by the leadership of any enterprise. Especially during emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans’ Mayor Ray Nagin cried during a WWL radio interview. Senator Mary Landrieu shed a tear on ABC’s This Week while describing “one pitiful” crane working on a levee. The Hurricane Aftermath is heart breaking and everyone should have a good cry.

But not the boss. Not in public. As Steve might suggest, lack of composure looks out of control.

A hundred years ago, as a young army lieutenant, one of my first lessons was that, “An ounce of appearance was worth a pound of performance.”

How petty! I thought. So superficial!

And so true. But appearances matter.

My first superior in the army was a Captain Aykroyd, (unrelated to Dan). A soft-spoken West Pointer who was most patient in providing guidance in the finer points of Leadership. I once was tasked with the delivery of a pink umbrella misplaced by some Colonel’s wife.

So I was off, with a jaunty step.

“No,” Capt Aykroyd said. “An Officer does not parade about with a pink umbrella.”

I instead wrapped the offensive girly accoutrement with manly red, green and yellow firing range flags and completed my mission. Appearances are an authentic part of the Conduct of Leadership.

Business Composure and image are independent of gender: A woman could carry that umbrella. But a woman in uniform could not.

I did not need to be reminded to never cry, never blubber in front of the troops.

In World War II on May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill gave his first speech to the House of Commons as Great Britain’s Prime Minister. He famously said:

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering. To reach profitability.

OK, I added that last part.

Churchill, with a bulldog image, spoke of war. Not of business; but it is sometimes hard to tell the difference.

Churchill offered tears; he didn’t produce them.

He closed his speech thus,

“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

Leadership in war, in a hurricane and in life depends on your “Business Composure.”

Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.