“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. (2 Chronicles 32:7-8)
Have you ever had one of those colleagues or bosses who seem to overreact when things don’t go his or her way? They’re the type to scrap the strategy or abandon ship when challenges surface. Not so with you, friend. You’ve got composure.
…Kind of like Hezekiah. Let’s measure up his seemingly insurmountable circumstance, and his reaction to it:
Just when everything seems to be going great for the kingdom of Judah, an Assyrian king by the name of Sennacherib set his sights on Jerusalem. A famously ruthless emperor, in command of a huge veteran army’s about to kick in Judah’s front door. Weaker men would melt, but Hezekiah kept it cool. Here’s what he did. Pay attention:
He consulted with his subject matter experts (2 Chronicles 32:1). Hezekiah was smart enough to gather people around him who were more skilled than he was at certain tasks. If you want to fight a war, you don’t call your mama. You call the guy in the uniform, with ribbons on his chest, fire in his eyes, ice in his veins, and muscles in his neck. Even though Hezekiah was king, he was wise enough to know – the things he didn’t know.
He carried out the plan expeditiously (2 Chronicles 32:4-5). When the Assyrian army is on the way, man, you don’t dillydally. They had already beaten the tar out of dozens of other nations – and they wanted Jerusalem next. So Hezekiah left the meeting with his counsel and put people to work immediately, plugging wells, repairing walls, forging weapons, and training his army. No time for chitchat. No time to create a committee to discuss the agenda which will decide the colors of the coat of arms. …Execute!
He communicated with everyone, from commanders to the commoners (2 Chronicles 32:6-8). I kinda like this part. He knew that Sennacherib had a fairly effective PSYOPs (meaning, psychological warfare) Unit. These guys would ride up to the wall of Jerusalem and intimidate the people inside with smack talk (see 2 Chronicles 32:10-19). Savvy king that he was, Hezekiah used his time to get the first word in – He made a public service announcement to his whole kingdom (who, by the way, loved and trusted him) saying, “Be strong and courageous. There is a greater power with us, than with the Assyrians!”
…And you know what happened? The people nodded their heads in agreement.
So then, your people need to see you leading with composure. They need you to bend without breaking, no matter the circumstance. Here’s what it looks like:
· Leaders with composure are comfortable not having all the answers. Do you have a board of directors, advisory board, or highly qualified team of staff around you? Oh lucky you – now use them. Perhaps you’re the one with the vision or the charisma, but chances are – they have beau coups experience and rich relationships. If you don’t have a team of counselors around you, build one. Even if you recruit a mentor or two, you need to have people whom you can trust to speak into your debacle.
· Leaders with composure will execute quickly. Look. At some point you have to put your bottle of Maalox away and start counting the small victories. Plan the work …quickly. Then work the plan …ferociously. This trait in a leader is infectious. Once the leader is in motion, he or she shouldn’t be surprised when the followers are filled with energy and focus – sometimes more than the leader him or herself.
· Leaders with composure know that “perpetual optimism is a force multiplier”. I wish I had come up with that one, but I have to give credit to one of my heroes, General Colin Powell (R). The leader can never (say it with me: “never”) adopt a “woe is us” posture when talking to his people. He or she can give a realistic assessment, yes. But then – the leader points the way forward. Skilled leaders use every means to get the point across. They give stirring speeches, they print t-shirts, they film commercials, they write songs… They absolutely embody “the way forward” in thought, word, and deed.
There’s a chance you are in a seemingly hopeless leadership situation right now. Maybe there’s not an army attacking your gates, but you have budget issues, personnel challenges, or public opinion woes. Can I advise you? Inhale. Exhale. Get some rest. …And go back into the office tomorrow with renewed confidence, ready to assemble your team of experts, plan your response …and then execute.
“Nothing baffles the schemes of evil people so much as the calm composure of great souls.” -Comte de Mirabeau