Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
When leaders permit themselves to become angry, their anger strongly compels them to act in misguided ways. They are inclined to say and do things they would not otherwise do. But having once surrendered to their angry impulses, they then focus their remaining mental energy on defending their actions. This is to be expected. Admitting that their angry behavior was an example of leadership failure goes against the grain. The failure is embarrassing enough; admitting their weakness is more than most weak leaders can muster.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
When you speak or act based on your rage, everyone but you knows you have failed as a leader. When you attempt to justify your behavior, you only dig the hole deeper. The sooner you admit what is obvious to everyone else, the sooner you can regain some of the credibility you have lost. But mere apologies are not enough. Those you hope to lead must see that you have learned from your failure to manage your anger and that you mean to do better.
How can you do it?
- Admit the obvious. You allowed yourself to become angry. You gave into your angry impulses and behaved badly. Do this as soon as possible.
- Apologize sincerely. Admit that if people don’t see you follow through with a genuine effort to behave more maturely in the future, they will come to view your confessions as just another ploy for letting yourself off the hook.
- Resist the temptation to defend your actions. Instead, carefully explain how a more mature leader would have responded in the same circumstance. Ask your colleagues to hold you accountable if you fall into a similar emotional rut in the future.
How have you persuaded your colleagues that enraged behavior is a leadership failure?