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Getting Composed By Rob McKenna

Getting Composed Under Pressure

Six months ago I finished the book Composed: The Heart and Science of Leading Under Pressure. I wrote the book based on my research over the last sixteen years on the strategies that enable leaders to to maintain a sense of themselves and a connection to others during the highest pressure moments. It’s a book that rolled out of me quickly because I’ve spoken on it, researched it, and coached it thousands of times. When it came out, I was relieved because I’ve wanted it done for so long, and like any author, I hope it helps those who might read it. Let me tell you why I hope you read this one.

Truth Seekers or Peace Keepers

Our ability to compose ourselves under pressure may be one of the most important things we can work on if we hope to become better leaders and versions of ourselves, for our sake and for the sake of others. Under pressure, some of us become truth speakers and others of us become peacekeepers – and neither is ideal. While we may have habitual ways of responding to pressure and become either autocrats or peace mongers, the most important factor may not be your tendency, but your willingness to work on the other side. While much of our culture is emphasizing strengths over weaknesses, the most important response may be to understand our strengths and tendencies, with a full willingness to develop our other half. Developing our other half may require a sacrifice, but it may make all the difference for those who work with us.

For those who seek peace at all costs, developing a voice and some conviction may be the need. For those who struggle to stay connected to the thoughts, needs and feelings of others, the emphasis is on listening to their perspective. For either, there is a necessary sacrifice – shutting up or showing up. That’s how the book starts. Composed helps you to understand your fundamental tendency, and then it gets strategic, practical, and personal.

The Secret Sauce for Composure

The remainder of the book highlights eleven research-based strategies for staying connected to others while maintain your own convictions. And, while the point of the book is to identify your own strengths and personal strategies that help you stay composed in the storm, there is a secret sauce. I won’t share the entire secret here, but I’ll give you a hint. The most important thing you can do to be the best version of yourself under pressure is not about how, what or when, but about why. Why is your purpose and reason for being a leader, and the more specific your why, the more impactful it will be. Why are you in the situation where you are feeling that pressure? What is your purpose for being there, with them, at this point in time? Why is a harder question, but that’s precisely what makes it important.

The easy questions bring easy answers that are oftentimes too easy to have any real impact. If you know why you are in the situation, it can change everything. That’s one of the secrets unpacked in the book, and why I hope you’ll give it a read. What impact would it have on you and on others around you if you were more composed under pressure?


Dr. Rob McKenna is the Founder and CEO of WiLD Leaders Inc. a firm focused on whole and intentional leader development and creator of the WiLD Toolkit, a set of 10 sequential developmental tools and personalized feedback reports that provide a comprehensive and intentional development plan. He is also Chair, Dept. of Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University and author of  Composed: The Heart and Science of Leading Under Pressure,  available at Amazon books.


Dr. Rob McKenna will be one of the main stage and workshop presenters at The Outcomes Conference 2019.

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