The Mindful Leadership Blog

Just In! High Performing Leaders Leverage Their Anger

March 22nd, 2018

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Research conducted by Henry Evans and Colm Foster, emotional intelligence experts and authors of Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter reveals that the best leaders do not repress their emotions.  Instead, they put them to work in positive ways.





So what?


Managers who fly into a rage always land badly.   Yet, as a leader you will undoubtedly get angry at some point.  The challenge is to use your anger to demonstrate three crucial leadership capabilities:  focus, confidence, and  authenticity.


What to do?


  1. Create focus: Anger causes you to focus on one thing.  It is like a red flag waving in front of a bull.  All you can see is what is in front of you.  Rather than focusing on anger and making yourself feel better or the other feel badly, stop yourself in the moment. Rather than focusing on anger and the other person, focus on the restorative action – what action can remedy the current situation.  Shouting how could you be so stupid? may make you feel better.  It won’t help.  Focusing on the action – How can you modify this presentation to ensure that the rationale is clear and specific and have it ready for my review by tomorrow afternoon? – will provide the kind of focus necessary to fix the mistake.
  1. Express confidence: Anger is sometimes the spark that can cause you to address problems you have avoided in the past. When you resist taking action because you feel angry with someone who holds organizational power over you or with someone on whom you depend for cooperation, it is often building anger that prompts action. When you are angry you experience a rush of adrenaline that reduces your inhibitions – and enables you to fly off the handle (or out of your safe space). This is a great example of how emotions can inform action.  It is okay to have anger – it is not okay to let it have you.  Emotionally smart people express anger in a controlled manner such as  Right now I am feeling irritated (or angry, or frustrated) because (whatever is or is not happening).  I would like to talk with you about what can be done. 
  1. Be Authentic: Your team members are innately equipped to discern another’s distress.  They may not know what particular emotion you are feeling (sad, angry, frustrated, irritated).  But you can bet they sense that something is not right.  Great leaders are genuine and authentic.  That is why others are willing to follow them.  When you express how you are feeling in a calm and measured way it can be one of your most effective leadership tools.


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