Q&A: Dealing with Anger as a Leader

Q: As a leader, I know that I should avoid getting angry and losing control, but it sometimes happens. How can I avoid this?

A: It sounds like you might be a little stressed out. I’ve been there. Leadership is indeed a stressful occupation. You have many responsibilities, and no one quite understands what you go through every day. So it’s not only stressful; it can be isolating which compounds that stress. Here are a few suggestions that might help you overcome this challenge.

  1. Recognize that you are not alone. There are leaders all over the world who have struggles and challenges that are similar to yours. When you are going through a difficult time, recognize that your experience – while it is unique to you and your particular circumstances – is in some way shared by many other women.
  2. Connect with a network. Find a mentor or colleague who can help you navigate challenges and identify your priorities.
  3. Remember your vision and purpose. There is a reason why you chose the path you are on. Immerse yourself in that vision and purpose through creative visualization and then translate that into daily action.
  4. Practice gratitude. It is easy to be overwhelmed by challenges. Yet, we all have something to be grateful for – our family, our health, the opportunity to take one more breath. Whatever it is for you, write it down and celebrate it.
  5. Take care of yourself. When you are engaged in important, valuable work, it can be difficult (and seem selfish) to take time for yourself. Yet, if you don’t make time for yourself, the quality of your work will suffer. Make sure you get rest, eat well, take breaks, and do what you need to do to nurture your physical and emotional health.
  6. Identify your triggers. If there is something or someone in particular that is triggering your anger? If so, either remove the trigger or create a plan to respond to it in a constructive way that is mutually beneficial.
  7. Reflect. When you react in a negative way that potentially causes harm, take the time to reflect upon what happened. Think about how you could have responded better and make a plan to act accordingly in the future.
  8. Build on your strengths. If you find yourself getting angry, impatient, or judgmental, use your unique gifts, whatever they may be, to change your behavior.
  9. Remember your role as a leader. As a leader, others are watching you. You are a role model. Other people will replicate your behavior, whether it is good or bad. You set the tone for your organization. In addition, as a leader, you have a responsibility to help guide and develop those around you. Take this responsibility seriously.
  10. Have fun. Make a plan to do something that you enjoy. Get out of your work environment and do something fun. It doesn’t need to be expensive – it could be a long walk or getting together with friends. Make a list of things that bring you joy – big and small – and do at least one thing every day.

These are just a few ideas to potentially avoid having your anger take over at work. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments below!