We boil at different degrees. – Clint Eastwood
A story is told of the 18th-century British physician John Hunter, who was a pioneer in the field of surgery and served as surgeon to King George III, who suffered from angina. Discovering that his attacks were often brought on by anger, Hunter lamented, “My life is at the mercy of any scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.” These words proved prophetic, for at a meeting of the board of St. George’s Hospital in London, Hunter got into a heated argument with other board members, walked out, and dropped dead in the next room.
As a leader it is important to know how to deal with anger. Let’s face it, we’ve all had moments when our anger has got the best of us and we’ve said and down things in hindsight that we wish we hadn’t. Yet how we deal with our anger is what will distinguish us as a leader who commands respect. So here are a few helpful reminders and solutions to keep in mind before anger gets the best of you.
Not all anger is bad
The scripture says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” There is a line when you get angry that you do not want to cross. It’s the point where words and actions can do irreversible harm. But anger itself is not bad. It means that you are invested, care, and are passionate about something. Understand that your emotion of anger is not bad, it all comes down to your response.
Not all pleasantness is good
As a leader you need to set the example with your attitude and actions and with the composure you present to your people. All smiles and little truth telling can be just as harmful as misguided anger. Expectations with your team need to be clear. As a leader you need to strike a balance between anger that hurts you and pleasantness that weakens you.
Anger is your stop sign before taking action
Before acting on anger that may have been building up over a span of time– stop. Important to consider here is an understanding of why you are angry, whom your anger might be geared toward, and what the proper actions should be going forward. This is where you earn your stripes as a leader and what you do in your moment of anger will be make you or break you.
It was said that when Abraham Lincoln had to write a letter to someone who had irritated him, he would often write two letters. The first letter was deliberately insulting. Then, having gotten those feelings out of his system, he would tear it up and write a second letter, this one tactful and discreet. Perhaps, like Lincoln, you need to sit down and write two letters, but never act out in anger in a way that is unbecoming to your leadership.
Anger is your catalyst for improvement
As already stated, anger is neither good nor bad, what’s critical is your response. If you channel the energy produced by anger in the right direction it can produce positive results that can be helpful. Perhaps you are angry over quarterly earnings that did not meet expectations. Channel that energy in a way that challenges your team to find new approaches or ways to improve. When you tap into that energy in a positive way it can be just the spark you need to turn things around.
Anger is your responsibility to confront
As a leader you carry a weight and responsibility that most know nothing about. All the pressures you bear have a way of adding up and weighing you down. Despite all the illusions of grandeur, leadership can be tough and can take a toll.
It is important that you take ownership of your issues with anger. Key areas that will make a world of difference (not an exhaustive list) in your leadership and keeping your anger under control is when you learn how to manage your time, learn how to delegate, take time to get away and recharge, set realistic expectations, pay attention to your diet and exercise, make yourself accountable to others, and your spiritual discipline.
Anger, like your attitude, is an emotion to be managed and channeled in the right direction. Either you will shape your anger or your anger will shape you.
© 2016 Doug Dickerson