Next to hubris, anger will sink a leader quicker than anything.
Right now in the Democratic race, Obama has the upper hand not because of experience or even his superior speaking skills but because of his temperament. He stays calm, focused and seemingly unflappable even when he’s being attacked. He seldom returns the attack but more often deflects it.
Clinton is increasingly visibly angry. We like scrappy and feisty, but anger scares voters. It makes them wonder what might happen in a high pressure situation, especially one of international diplomacy.
If you’re a Clinton supporter, don’t blame me for her behavior. That makes as much sense as me blaming someone who points out John McCain’s occasional lack of enthusiasm and vigor. It is what it is.
But if you’re a leader, learn from the mistakes of the angry. It suggests character flaws like lack of control and entitlement.
I’ve read and heard for years that men tend to struggle with anger more than women. While that may be true, it is a potential pitfall regardless of gender.
One problem with anger issues in leadership is that people are increasingly unwilling to tell you the truth. You become viewed as someone with a hairpin trigger. Nobody wants to poke the bear. That’s why so many leaders I observe seem blissfully ignorant of the problems their unresolved or uncontrolled anger is causing.
Another problem is the some rationalize anger as righteous indignation. Generally anger has something to do with indignation, but it is seldom righteous. A person can be angry or upset about a situation but when he or she starts to take it out on others, any sense of righteousness disappears.
I’ve written and blogged on this subject before, that’s why I refer to this as “my broken record.” I write not just to instruct others but to remind myself.
Dallas Willard said anger never makes anything better. I’m not sure I agree completely–I believe anger can be appropriate at times–but I have benefited much from the spirit of his admonition.