No one likes being yelled at, but it might be the proper way to motivate. Executive coaches Henry Evans and Colm Foster argue that harnessing anger can empower executives to better leadership strategies. It might not be the most effective course of action, but it produces results.
Everyone gets angry. What matters is what you do about it.
In their new book, “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter,” Evans and Foster, former competitive martial artists, claim that embracing anger makes someone a better leader because it generates confidence and creates a higher level of focus.
According to Evans and Foster, being angry makes someone focus on the source of that anger and become less likely to be distracted or attempt to multitask. Similarly, anger produces a rush of adrenaline that improves self-confidence.
So, is angry leadership the way to go?
Doug Riddle, global director of coaching and feedback services for the Center for Creative Leadership, said there is a time and place for angry leadership. “I’m not against throwing a fit sometimes for strategic benefit, but if it’s not measured or limited then it can have reverberations that last years. I’ve coached leaders who could not lose a reputation for bullying because of a single incident of uncontrolled anger,” he said.
He said some people think authenticity requires the expression of anger, but it is no more useful in the workplace than other emotions such as lust. Instead, leaders should focus on the many other ways to make clear one’s commitment to excellence or determination to make significant change without having a tantrum.
While doing research for her new book, “Love ’Em or Lose ’Em,” Beverley Kaye, founder and chairwoman of Career Systems International, found that most employees who left their organizations did so because they had a “jerk” or angry boss.
“During exit interviews we found that a lot of people were turned off by bosses who blew their stack and yelled,” Kaye said. “So many people were turned off by this behavior, enough to leave the enterprise.”
Although Kaye found evidence that showed the pitfalls of having an angry boss, she also said that anger could be an effective tool for leadership if used properly. For example, if a manager starts an angry tirade by saying, “This makes me angry and I'll tell you why,” it might provide a useful, transparent moment of insight for employees.
It may not be the friendliest way to approach a leadership position, but carefully utilizing anger to motivate one’s subordinates can be effective. Riddle said it’s all in the way that you use it. “Do I take that energy, strength, focus and get in charge of myself so I can communicate to others and get the kind of outcomes I want, or do I selfishly explode for my own satisfaction and the demoralization of others? The difference between the two is the key.”