A recent Forbes.com article titled How Do You Control CEO Rage? seems like a sign of the times. Stress from the dire economic situation, global competition and high-speed change seems to be pervasive. And some of us just don’t react well to the pressure cooker.
The Forbes.com article certainly expressed the downside of out-and-out rage. But it also notes that some employees respond very well to anger. (We don’t know many of these people.) What is the role of anger in leadership?
Anger isn’t the enemy. Everyone gets angry. The problems start when we aren’t aware of why we’re angry, lash out without considering consequences or use anger as a tool to intimidate. How do you handle legitimate annoyance?
Be self-aware. One of our favorite articles on Emotional Intelligence is What Makes a Leader? by Daniel Goleman (Harvard Business Review). This article discusses self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions and drives, and their effect on others. What lights your fuse? Are there specific situations, personalities or stresses that are more likely to cause you to lose control? Think about your past experiences and analyze what made you so frustrated.
Self-regulate. In What Makes a Leader, Goleman talks about self-regulation, the ability to keep control and not let our feelings take the helm. Self-regulation defies the myth of the charismatic, explosive leader who rules with an iron fist. Leaders who self-regulate still feel fury; they simply choose not to act upon it.
Lead by example. Leaders who chronically explode in outrage encourage others to do the same. If you don’t want to deal with their unfettered anger (and the trail of problems it causes), hold yourself to a higher standard.
Tell people when you’re angry. When you’re irate, say so. As we tell our toddlers, “use your words.”
Apologize when you mess up. We all fall short of perfection. When you lose control and express your irritation inappropriately, don’t make excuses. (There aren’t any good ones.) Apologize to those involved and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Will Rogers once said, “people who fly into a rage will always make a bad landing.” Using angry outbursts to get what you want is manipulative game playing. It’s also a dangerous practice that will almost always result in a crash landing.
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