Can Leaders Use Anger and Still Be Authentic?

Anger has many fathers, the source of which determines your authenticity.

As a leader you will at some point reveal just about every emotion available to humans including sadness, fear, happiness and anger. The question for you is do you use your emotions to lead or do you bury them in an attempt to show that stoic captain of the ship?

Paul Ekman is an American psychologist who is a pioneer in the study of emotions and has identified six basic emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise).

I hope that you have felt every one of these and more in your journey, if not there is something wrong with you. What I want to know from you is, do you use these emotions as part of your leadership strategy. More specifically, do you use your anger or do you pack it away?

Anger has many fathers but most of the time we get angry when we feel threatened, attacked, frustrated or feel powerless. When I look back at my entrepreneurial journey, I can confidently raise my hand and say that I have felt each and every one of these many times. It almost make me chuckle. In some ways, I feel that these emotions are part of the definition of being an entrepreneur.

However, there is one huge factor to consider when these feelings arrive at your front door. Are you personally feeling these emotions or is the company the target? This interesting twist may just be the key to effectively handling the anger you feel and if used correctly, can be an effective leadership tool for you.

Threatened. Do you feel personally threatened? Is it one of your employees? How about an investor? In both cases this is most likely a communication issue and not a business issue. You will need to deal with your anger on a one-on-one basis. In terms of leadership – understand that you are not communicating effectively and bring that into your game plan as opposed to letting others in the company know you feel threatened by these individuals.

Attacked. Businesses are under attack every day. Competitors lower prices or recruit your employees. This is just business so don’t take it personally. But as such, you can use this anger to compete harder, motivate yourself and your staff and send a signal as a leader that you will not roll over.

Frustrated. To this non-psychologist writer/entrepreneur/investor this feels like another weak emotion for a leader to embrace. Business is frustrating; nothing ever goes according to plan. Life variables get in the way and the pressure only grows with time. As a leadership coach, I don’t want to see leaders express frustration openly. I want to see leaders manage around and through that frustration. Frustration shows leadership immaturity.

Powerless. This makes me laugh out loud. I feel somewhat powerless a part of every day. Depending on your level of self-awareness and possibly your beliefs, we all are powerless to control many aspects of our lives. Business is made up of people and product and each have a chaotic amount of moving parts. We are powerless to control many if not most of them. But we can influence them as a leader. If you get angry from a feeling of powerlessness, how about turning it around and embrace your inability to control everything and turn it into a leadership skill that encourages and supports personal and team nimbleness?

Yes, anger is a complex emotion and some leaders use anger to get what they want. Many anger issues originate in a deeper origin and understanding that can then inform you and your leadership style.

Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

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