Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
People feel entitled to their anger, leaders particularly so. Leaders have watched their superiors and mentors throw temper tantrums in the workplace when things haven’t gone their way, and they have seen them get away with it. Perversely, bosses are often lionized for behaving badly because of the mistaken notion that expressed anger is an effective tool for motivating one’s underlings.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
You know better than that. You remember how it felt when you were victimized by your leader’s temper. You probably told yourself at the time that if you ever became a leader you would not behave that way. You understand that people produce their best results in an atmosphere of mutual respect, fairness and emotional predictability. You cannot sustain a culture of teamwork and high expectations if you allow your anger to highjack your judgment and behavior.
How can you do it?
- Admit it. Make it clear to everyone that raw anger is never helpful in the workplace. Admit that you are human and that you may become angry now and then, but emphasize that you, no one else, will be at fault. Ask for others’ tolerance and understanding of your leadership failure.
- Instead of apologizing, change. Allowing yourself to become angry on a regular basis and then begging forgiveness won’t work. You have observed many leaders who think that repeated apologies wipe the slate clean. People see this ploy for exactly what it is—a way to avoid taking responsibility for one’s behavior.
- Confront anger immediately whenever it erupts. Expose it as the emotional weakness it is. Create and preserve an anger-free zone in your workplace.
How have you reframed anger as a leadership flaw?