I occasionally write about leaders. I hope I’m like others and fascinated about how people make certain decisions. But it isn’t just the inner workings of the decision maker that is interesting. It is the appearance of ease in doing so that establishes a leader. For instance, Barack Obama comes off as very calm, very measured, very thoughtful. A good example is during the second Presidential debate the national credit markets were frozen. No one was sure what was happening or how to fix it. So the debate is a time capsule moment for dealing with an unknown. Obama displayed no panic – he was practically reassuring. His competition for the office of President was scattered in his approach. McCain didn’t reinforce his message of strength or experience. As Kate Zernike writes in the NY Times in a piece called Never Let Them See You Sweat people want stability, a steady hand, and reassurance.
Calmness is partially genetic though. I once read that most of our behavior is genetic, all the way to around 90%, but it is the last 10% that is the difference maker. Channeling it can lead to paramount shifts in how you act. So regarding calmness, even though you may or may not be predisposed to it doesn’t mean you can’t hone it. You can actually hone four other traits as well.
As Zernike points out, Obama is probably shaped by the culture of Hawaii to be more calm. I’ve been to Hawaii and it is laid back. So he may not have had to work very hard at being calm, but he does have to worry about being disconnected as well. And that is the balance of a leader. You must be human in your emotions, but able to rise above them.