LEADERS LET GO OF ANGER 2023-09-25T01:41:43-04:00


Anger is a very common human emotion. We are emotional beings and, from time to time, we get angry at people or situations. Very few of us never experience anger. The key question is what do we do with our anger?

When I was a young leader, I would deal with my anger in a very consistent way: I used to bury my anger. Why? I grew up in a home with a lot of conflict – all verbal – and usually between my father and my brother. The style I adopted was to shove my anger under the rug, both in personal relationships and in work situations.

That is not a healthy approach to anger. It’s not healthy for us leaders and it’s not healthy for our teammates. Too often, leaders who bury their anger allow it to build and build internally until they blow up one day in an inappropriate manner.

I know. That was me.

I was reminded of this issue while speaking with an esteemed leader several days ago. This leader is sufficiently self-aware to realize she has an issue with anger, specifically holding on to her anger and allowing it to fester. As it festers, it grows. She knows that holding onto anger toward colleagues or teammates does not serve her, but she admitted that hanging on to that emotion gives her a certain sense of satisfaction because she knows she is “right.”

She admitted that we do not grow as leaders when we hang on to our anger. In some ways, we are being selfish. It satisfies our need to be “right,” but is serves as an obstacle on our own leadership path. We discussed ideas for her learning to let go of her anger:

-Reframing: Looking at the anger differently, as a hurdle to be overcome rather than as a self-satisfying affirmation

-Moving the anger to the “parking lot:” Giving ourselves permission to move it to the side without forgetting it

-Allowing time to take effect: Anger usually dissipates with time, so allow time to have its usual effect

-Confide in a colleague: Find someone you trust and vent or speak with her, explaining your anger and why you are having difficulty releasing it

-Write an email to the person with whom you are so angry, expressing all your emotion – then, when you are finished – delete it without hitting “send”

-Get the anger out of your head and onto paper: Journal about your anger and bring all your emotions “into the light” – examine your reasons for the anger and how else you could approach the situation

-Choose to adopt a different attitude toward the “offending” person – Feel sorry for their behavior, feel sadness about their poor decision, feel regret about not speaking up yourself in the moment

-Use humor as your aid: Laugh at yourself as you realize “Here I go again getting angry”…and ask yourself “What else can I do here besides hanging on to my anger?”

-Find your compassion and choose proactively to forgive the other person

-Move your body: It’s amazing how physical movement, including running, walking, yoga and exercise, can help us feel better when we have been feeling angry – get out in nature and appreciate the beauty around you

I am not proud of the way in which I approached anger when I was a young leader. As I got older, I learned to handle my anger more appropriately. You can follow the same path.

So cultivate your self-awareness. Acknowledge if you have an issue with hanging on to your anger. If you do, choose a strategy for handling your anger differently and more compassionately.

You will become a more effective leader.

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