Every leader gets angry. Great leaders use their anger to become better leaders. Average leaders mishandle this potent force.
In their recently released book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Klemp offer three creative tips on how to effectively use anger.
1. Feel Your Anger, Don't Repress It
Many leaders were taught to repress their anger. Great leaders know this doesn't work. When you repress your anger two things can happen.
First, you'll probably get sick. Research suggests unfelt anger makes people sick. Common anger-related illnesses include chronic back pain, heart disease, high blood pressure, headaches, TMJ and depression.
Second, you can waste energy. Repressing anger is like holding a beach ball under water. It takes lots of energy. Great leaders value energy, they don't waste it.
With practice, feeling anger can be simple. Anger, like all feelings, is just sensation in the body. To feel your anger, the authors suggest bringing your attention to your body (take your attention away from who or what you think you're angry at), breathe, move and welcome the anger. It will pass through your body in less than 90 seconds. Stuffed anger can stick around for years.
2. Express Your Anger, Don't Hide It
Many leaders are taught not to express their anger. This is a bad idea and odds are you won't fool anybody.
The human species operates like pack animals. We've learned to sense how others in the pack, especially leaders, are feeling. It is key to our survival. When you're angry, people around you know it no matter how hard you try to hide it. They'll react by fleeing, fighting or freezing. This behavior wastes time and energy.
Great leaders learn to express anger. They do this in healthy, direct, non-aggressive and non-toxic ways. Great leaders simply and powerfully say, "I feel angry." They don't say, "I'm angry at you because you dropped the ball." Or, "I'm angry because we missed our quarterly earnings." All explanation and justification are a waste of time.
3. Learn From Your Anger, Don't Waste It
Average leaders waste their anger by getting embroiled in drama-based debates fueled by blame. They get stuck wanting to prove they're right. Great leaders know this is a massive waste of time and energy. Though it might be fun for the ego to parade around its smarts, nothing of value is accomplished.
Instead of blaming others, great leaders learn from anger and become even better leaders.
Once leaders have felt, expressed and owned their anger, they then ask the question, "What is this anger here to teach me and us?" Anger is usually an invitation to set a boundary, stop doing something that is no longer of service, change direction, face what is not being faced or to say no.
Yes, it takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. What worthy skill isn't? The good news is, when you start shifting your relationship with anger, you'll see the results immediately.