Professionalism: How Exceptional Leaders Maintain Composure and Why It's Important

By business.com editorial staff,
business.com writer
| Updated
Apr 14, 2020
Image Credit: Credit: Shutterstock / g-stockstudio

Leadership is set by example.

  • Remaining composed as a leader isn't a recommendation, it's a necessity.
  • Staying in control of your emotions will allow you to make concise decisions based on strategic thinking instead of impulses.
  • Set the tone for your company by always practicing professionalism. Never take things personally and always imagine situations from the other person’s perspective.

Like the other key elements of workplace culture, professionalism starts at the very top with your company's leadership. It is something that is set by example; and regardless of the culture you have in place, it is absolutely vital to your company's success.

What's interesting is that, since the word "professionalism" has such broad and relative applications, it is challenging to tie it to corporate leadership through one specific avenue. An ever-reliable resource is Dale Carnegie and Associates, which defines business professionalism as "the code of behavior that is expected of you in a leadership role." Broad, right? Within the realm of professionalism in business, though, are more specific elements such as physical and behavioral presentation, punctuality, accountability, communication and respect of the company's policies and other employees.

This is where it gets especially tricky. Professionalism, that is. Each individual, as an employee and extension of your company and its culture, derives a sense of their own professional identity through the convergence of their own communication, knowledge, skills, reasoning, emotions and values. Ideally, what you want is for every employee to match up to a certain professional standard, but that's not necessarily realistic. In a contemporary professional workplace, this issue is only amplified in complexity by technology. Which brings me to this: why it's important for corporate leaders to have composure, and how exceptional leaders maintain it.

What is composure?

Composure can be described best as to how a person remains in control. Instead of showing emotion, he or she is calm in any type of situation. When you're composed, you don't allow emotions such as anger or disappointment to get in the way of making key decisions. A composed person isn't raising their voice or slamming their fists against the desk.

Keeping your composure is paramount to become an effective leader. If you do lose your composure, damage control is required. According to the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, leaders who lose their composure must work hard to restore morale and trust in the workplace.

Why composure is important

Why should it matter for you to maintain composure through adversity? You're the boss, right? In short, composure matters because at the end of the day, it's not about you – it's about your business. It's about the success of your company. Maintaining composure as a professional in the workplace is important because, as a leader, you're one of the key examples and influencers of the creativity, innovation, vision, respect, loyalty, and work ethic necessary to drive your business. Any lapse in composure in your professionalism affects your credibility as a leader, which has a negative effect on your company’s workplace culture and ultimately hurts your business.

It also gives your employees a free pass when they demonstrate a lack of ability to control their emotions. If they see that you're unable to account for your own emotions or recognize and manage your response to others, regardless of whether those emotions stem from issues in or away from the workplace, they will believe that it's OK to do the same. Ultimately, professionalism is tied closely to self-awareness. Until you're in tune with yourself, your ability to connect with and lead others in the workplace will lack consistency. Without composure there's no professionalism; and without professionalism, well, there’s no success.

How the best leaders maintain composure

No two exceptional leaders are the same (regarding they maintain a high level of composure); there are a handful of similar characteristics and behaviors. In most cases, how exceptional leaders respond to adversity is a matter of perception. How they view and seek to resolve problems is more the glass is half-full than the glass is half-empty. In other words, exceptional leaders don't see problems, they see opportunities. And with that, here's how (thanks again, Dale Carnegie) leaders can respond to challenges:

  • Don't let your emotions become obstacles. Recognize the emotion, but don't let the feelings overcome you. If you need to take a breather to reset, excuse yourself from the situation and revisit it when you're not overly emotional.

  • Don't take things personally. Always keep business separate from your and others' personal lives. Employees take their cues from their leaders, so set a positive example.  

  • Be accountable.  Your behavior and communication as a leader must be exemplary.

  • Communicate wisely. Listen as much or more than you speak. Take the time to weigh what each person says before you respond.

  • Be decisive. Don't show or respond with doubt. Leaders are able to make the tough calls while still remaining in control.

  • Retain your perspective. You were likely in the same position as your employees at one time. Be understanding about the struggles of their roles.

Above all, always remain positive. Even in times of crisis, remain optimistic and constructive toward your employees. Even if you're facing an exit, it won't help you, your employees or your business to lead with a lack of professionalism. Stay composed and good luck!

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff
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