Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
When questioned closely, angry leaders will readily admit that their anger differs in intensity on a continuum from mild annoyance to murderous rage. But they will have never given that idea much thought. Here’s why. Once they begin allowing themselves to have temper tantrums in the workplace, all of their outbursts move to the right on this scale. This is because once a leader starts behaving like a spoiled child, he behaves the same or a little worse every time in response to even less significant frustrations. He feels no need to show restraint. Any perceived slight or annoyance triggers the full response. Otherwise, the offender might not realize how important the leader is. It’s hard to take such nonsense seriously, but this kind of thinking is endemic among insecure leaders.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Be realistic. If you have been throwing temper tantrums for years, you are not going to turn yourself into a mature, reflective leader overnight. But you can start by dialing back the intensity of your reactions. When you realize that your responses to frustrations need not be all-or-nothing, you have just given yourself options you did not realize you had. Successfully modifying your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviors works the same way as any other significant change. Small steps.
How can you do it?
- Embrace the logic of this approach. Managing your anger is a mind game. If you are reading this blog, you have already admitted that you or someone you care about has a problem. And you are looking for a roadmap. You have found it.
- Admit that you are responsible for your behavior. If you continue to blame your behavior on others, you will not take the next step and then the next. And let’s not overlook the biggest copout of all; many successful leaders throw temper fits all the time. Of course they do. If that is the kind of leader you aspire to be, you are reading the wrong blog.
- Admit that you have the power to change. If you keep using your upbringing, your genetics or the latest psychiatric fad as an excuse for continuing to misbehave, you are giving up on yourself. Remember, the conviction that one is helpless is one of the core beliefs at the heart of the problem with anger. I said it was a core belief. I did not say it was true.
What strategies have you found helpful in decreasing the intensity of your angry feelings?