Staff Sergeant Leadership Basics: Composure

This is the fourth article in a series by Judy Navarrete, SPHR, Human Resources Manager at SK Textile, Inc.  Navarrete contacted me at Military Resumes to express her interest in sharing her vast human resources and operations management experience and insight into the business world with military job seekers.  Her observations are food for thought as you reflect on your own military experience and how it applies to the business world in preparing your military resume or for an interview.

Read the first article in the series.

Read the second article in the series.

Read the third article in the series.


Composure is a serene, self-controlled state of mind; calmness and tranquility, despite the hysteria.  What does one’s state of mind have to do with leadership?  Everything!  A leader is expected to make well thought-out decisions.  Logical decisions are hard to make with a hysterical and unfocused mind.  To make good decisions, one must maintain composure in high stress situations.  This takes practice, experience, and a cool disposition.

Cool is a state of mind.  Because Marines must maintain composure in all circumstances, they immediately start training to focus their minds as they prepare for their first inspection.  Many are still in “civilian mode”, but gradually gain confidence.  Once they claim the title of Marine, they are prepared and confident for the inspection.  Throughout the remainder of their training, which is continuous, they are placed in stressful situations that test their physical and mental aptitude.  It is through this continuous training and exposure to high pressure situations that they endure and are able to maintain calm while mayhem and disorder surrounds them.

While in transitional leadership roles, I would often vent to a trusted confidant, a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant, in response to a range of tense situations at work… from major customer complaints that put business at risk to personnel issues.  Whenever I felt distracted and uncertain of what to do, I lost my composure.  Fortunately, the aftermath took place after business hours, out of employees’ view.  In each case, the first (and sometimes only) thing this Staff Sergeant would tell me to do was, “relax  … and calm down”.  He did not tell me how to solve my problems, but simply suggested, “just think about it”.  It is only with a calm and composed mind that a leader can think clearly and objectively.  Once the mind is calm, answers appear.  In some cases, the answer is to do nothing and just let the words or actions go unanswered.

In business, it is critical that a leader maintain composure.  Employees who witness their leader or manager “lose it” can be adversely affected.  Today, such behavior could result in a hostile work environment claim or loss of creativity and productivity due to employees’ fear of a backlash.  Anyone can learn to develop composure and calmness.  Like anything, it takes practice.  First, realize that your actions are motivated by feelings, and those feelings are the result of thoughts running through your head at a given point in time.  To maintain a calm exterior, gain some insight into your habitual thoughts.  Empty your mind of the negative and self-defeating thoughts and fill it with positive views and constructive ideas.  Experience with high stress situations in general also helps.  When feeling pressed on all sides, reflect on similar challenges you were able to overcome.  Say to yourself, “if I could rise up and overcome xyz, then I can surely solve this problem”.

When a crisis arises, what thoughts run through your head?

Judy Navarre, SPHR, the author of this series, leadership basics, is a Human Resources Manager.  She has over 14 years of experience in strategic management.  She has extensive experience in understanding the needs of managers and businesses with respect to staffing and leadership performance.  She has worked in the private sector and union and non-union environments, both for profit companies and not-for-profit organizations.  Her understanding of military training and leadership comes from her conversations and interaction with a Staff Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps.  For more information regarding the information contained in this article, you may contact her at