A Conversation with an Angry Leader
Leaders who aren’t frustrated are aiming too low.
But, leaders who can’t manage their anger grow bitter, destroy their health, and disconnect with employees.
I had a conversation with a young angry leader this week. He’s angry at the response of the people in his organization. Like many leaders, he hasn’t learned to manage anger’s fire.
Mismanaged anger causes:
- All or nothing thinking.
- My way or the highway attitudes.
- Self-pity and feeling unappreciated.
- Escape. Looking for greener, easier pastures.
Some leaders don’t have the courage to get angry. Or, if they do, it’s an expression of weakness and they use it poorly.
Leaders who get angry care.
I’ll take them over those who don’t every time. Leaders who don’t get angry are going with the flow. But, real leaders go against the flow.
Real leaders are hard to manage. They don’t settle and they don’t like being told what to do.
The trouble with mediocre leaders is they domesticate their fires.
I asked my young friend, “What are you angry about?
He said, “People only care for themselves.”
I asked, “What do you want?”
He said, “I want people to care about others more.”
I asked my friend, “What is the job of a leader?”
We talked, for a bit, about the role of leaders. Finally, I said, “Leaders move people from point “A” to point “B.” Do the people you lead need to be moved?
Anger points to opportunity when you rise above blame or defeat. Avoid pointing anger at people, both yourself and others.
Focused anger creates boldness.
- Overcomes reluctance.
- Clarifies expectations.
- Energizes forward movement.
Outbursts are out. Unharnessed anger destroys. But harnessed anger energizes.
How can leaders harness anger?
Agree with your points of anger as a motivator.. however the “mismanaged anger” section is a vital understanding.
So anger as fuel is good, but like gasoline if it is not contained it can be destructive, and in somewhat uncontrolled,escalating patterns!
Thanks Ken. My experience with anger is we spend too much time tamping it out and not enough managing it.
I’m not encouraging idiot-leaders to run around the office blowing up.
Well I learned more than I can say reading and listening to Start With Why.
Reading and listening at the same time zooms comprehension up to as high as 50%.
Then watching Leaders Eat Last Simons talk on Vimeo Free
What I learned is ALL people care. What happens is they have not always had their WHY connected with others.
When that happens trust emerges.
When that does not happen people do not see what doing the Leader wants is getting them closer to what THEY WANT.
Then there is the chemical part. When cortisol is dumped in the system it does not feel good and it shuts off the immune system. Being around a person that generates that chemical response is a bummer! Won’t want to help that person.
Oxytocin completely different animal. Dose of that we feel great!!! Like when you help an elderly person cross the street…..you feel good. Biologically it is oxytocin making that happen.
So if a person wants to play better with others. Read, listen to Simon Sinek and become an oxytocin generating machine.
Works whether you are aware or understand it or not. it is biological. Why not learn and understand it and be more effective with others?
SP back to generating as much oxytocin as I can in a days time!!!
The Dude Abides
“All people care.” Bingo
I have found anger disrupts flow of the workforce at times and other times the workforce takes off like the “Energizer Bunny”. I think the keywords are channeling the direction of the anger to the root source of the anger and avoiding conflict with the entire group. Changing to perhaps guidance for the angered parties involved to solidify the solution as compared to fester the problem
Glad you brought up the disruptive power of anger. Perhaps the main concern is lower productivity. On the other hand, leaders disrupt. 🙂
Emotional distraction is part of my concern with I think about anger.
been on both sides – when your boss vents, best not to interrupt and just take it silently. Then maybe you can talk reasonably
when someone under you vents, it’s better to ask him to speak with you in private, and listen – then speak softly to discern the root of the issue.
Thanks Bill. Venting is one thing. Channeling is another. I’m thankful to have people in my life that allow me to vent. But, what I find more useful is grabbing that energy and using it.
I agree that managed anger is good leadership trait whereas un-managed anger does not reflect good leadership trait. I also feel that leaders can harness their anger in many ways. When they see that their capacity is not less and has less scope then it is better not to harness anger. When they see that they have enough capacity to influence others, they should harness their anger. I will quote one example here- When I was interviewing one retired CEO to know the reasons for the initiatives he took to transform one giant organization, he told that he was motivate to do such steps because of his anger that was suppressed for the past 30 years. He said- he was working in the organist and witnessing all the problems and problems.He also mentioned that how top management were handicapped and did not dare to take decision based on many reasons. Since, he was not holding the position that can influence more people, he was keeping quite. But sooner he acquired his position where he was only to make decision, though there others who could potentially influence the decision. He took decision against all the odd and unfavorable situation.Initially he was criticized, laughed and blamed for many reasons, but finally he proved his mettle and he could actually bring out new transformation that was not possible in the past by any CEO. He created history and now know as transformational leader. He also wrote one book called ” Dare to Lead”.
Therefore, I strongly believe that capacity with courage makes leaders powerful and effective. Those who are position centric can achieve position by any means, but can not be called as “true leaders”, because they have worked for self, not for others.
Very good and so true.
With your young angry friend it looks as though you used the GROW model in your coaching conversation.
An excellent example of how to use it in a natural way and shows its versatility.
I’ve used it successfully with frustrated people and hadn’t considered its potential for angry people.
But then, would you say frustration to some extent is early-phase anger?
Anger is similar to stress, radiating pains, or even low-frequency bass notes — all can feel “omnidirectional”. If you don’t pay attention to where it’s coming from, it can seem to be coming from everywhere at once.
Your simple questions, “What are you angry about?” and “What do you want?” are great first steps to identify the source. It is empowering to have a specific source because it implies you can take specific actions to resolve it. “Anger points to opportunity” is powerful and positive way to manage anger.
Nice piece again Dan, adaptive leadership has to start with the leader working on thier own ‘stuff’, to then work with others.
A bit more on the anger topic is at http://get-clarity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/careful-with-that-axe-eugene.html
One of the techniques I use routinely to allow anger (and other emotions) to occur before meetings is to pre-publish not only the meeting agenda, but also the talking points. I do this because I recognize my own shortcomings with respect to anger management. Those talking points are key insofar as they allow people to decide ahead of time how they will address something, rather than being blind sided by it unexpectedly. I agree with you, Dan, that I would take the leaders who get angry because they are the ones who care.
Very wise bimuse, thanks! Doing that might prioritize the agenda very well.
Right on time! Thank you.
Agreed. For the leader, anger is the fuel for dominating as well as withdrawing in a given leadership situation. What you’re describing well is being an engaged leader. I also love how leadership consultant, Lee Ellis, puts it in his Courage Challenge campaign – go to http://www.FreedomStarMedia.com/Courage
In your interaction Dan (hmmm, aren’t they all young friends now), you very wisely shifted the perspective from the people to the journey. (Course, some might say that, while it appears contrary to Puritanical work ethic, if we take of ourselves first, we can better care for others…hence put your oxygen mask on first before attempting to put it on your young’uns.) It could also be, with that scenario, that the young leader hads neglected to attend to a very core Maslow need around safety, security, belonging essentials before evolving up the pyramid toward fulfillment and service to others. Who is that young leader angry at now?
Perhaps there is a case to be made to be angry ‘with’ rather than ‘at’…as ‘at’ often ends up getting personal, which usually results in a lose-lose outcome. As long as life & limb are not overtly at risk, getting angry with the current state, with the current situation,with the current mindset can start a conversion of that negative energy toward something positive. Course it requires a titch of introspection too… 😉
Reblogged this on Lead Me On and commented:
I wonder what the leader he was talking with said about the idea of domestication, and the role of leaders? Sometimes I think it’s the lack of a bridge between the stories we’re living and the choices we’re making that causes the most frustration. We want people to care, and we topple when we don’t get the response we want. We can’t step back, and observe. Leaders need as much affirmation as followers! And get less….
I disagree with the inference that anger is good. My experience with anger is that it distorts perception and causes knee-jerk reactions. Much prefer the word passion, passionate vs. angry. Strong emotion doesn’t have to be negative…
I think of this issue in the context of a local church. Any commitment on the part of a leader guarantees frustration as moving from A to B takes much longer than you think is appropriate. That can easily become anger but that, of course, is not socially acceptable.
Then there is the complication that multiple leaders have mutually exclusive notions of point B.
Thanks, Dan. This post made me feel better about being frustrated.
Reblogged this on Movers, Shakers, Leadership Makers.