A while back we were fortunate enough to be given the use of a rather wonderful house up in the north of England, in a small town called Tynemouth. The house was completely restored to the 1960s style, with fabulous views over Longsands, the local beach.
While we were out for a walk on the Sunday afternoon, we saw something that reminded me of one of the key components of Leadership Presence – managing your emotional state.
Two men stopped their cars, got out and squared up to each other because one of them didn’t like a maneuver the other had made. I thought we were going to see a fight; luckily, the main aggressor backed down and ended up driving off, swearing and cursing all the while.
I would hate to think that either of those two had a job that involved leading anyone; who wants a leader who flips his or her lid over something so trivial, and becomes aggressive at the drop of a hat?
I see it a lot here in the UK unfortunately – people who lose their tempers and feel they have a right to treat those a round them to a tantrum to get their own way. I think we’ve become a more aggressive society, hellbent on a sense of entitlement.
I want to say stop it. Right now. There’s a better way to be and a far more effective way to manage your relationships. Learn to control yourself and find an outlet for those strong emotions, that if given vent to unchecked, will almost always do harm, to yourself and others. Walk away from the situation, breathe, go for a run, sound off to a neutral listener…but attacking someone, whether it’s verbally or heaven forbid, physically, is not the way of a leader.
How about you? Are you known for having a short fuse?
The fact is, as a leader, your emotional state has an effect on those around you, so you need to make sure it’s one you want. Emotions are contagious – is yours worth catching?
Many, many years ago I led a workshop where one of the learners kicked off in the middle, slamming doors as she went. This wasn’t unusual behaviour it turns out – ‘She does it all the time’ I was told. What I was curious about though, was why her manager wasn’t tackling this.
The wider impact on the team wasn’t good. People tip-toed around their colleague as if on eggshells. No-one would challenge her behaviour and the bad feeling lingered for days. This could have been avoided if the team leader was prepared to challenger her behaviour.
This can be done in a compassionate way – if you have the best interests of your team at heart, and it’s individual members, why wouldn’t you want to help a colleague to sort out behaviour that causes themselves and everyone else, a problem?
As a leader, how are you ensuring that others manage their state?
Setting expectations around communication is one way to do this – agreeing, maybe through the vehicle of shared values, how you expect to demonstrate speaking and listening skills, for example. As a team, deciding how you’ll handle conflict and the times when things go wrong. Being bold enough to challenge and call out behaviour that offends your values.
As a leader, modelling the behaviour you’d like to see – however hard that might be at times.
You can download The Communicate with Impact Grid, a free short guide to helping you make more of an impact in the way you communicate.
I’m Susan Ritchie, an author, leadership and executive coach and trainer. My second book, Strategies for Being Visible: 14 Profile-Raising Ideas for Emerging Female Leaders is now available as a paperback, an audiobook and for the Kindle reader.