Anger works. Frustration motivates. Just look at the election this week and you’ll see this. Scores of elected officials are heading home, replaced by a wave of new recruits riding a crest of anger. I’m not a political pundit (thankfully), but I think it’s pretty obvious that indignation and outrage were the big winners of this mid-term.
Before we get too self-righteous, it’s good to look in the mirror. The same thing happens in our organizations. We talk like decisions are made for cold, clinical reasons. And yes, analysis can and should play a primary role in how leaders play their role. But anyone who thinks rage doesn’t play at least a strong supporting role just isn’t watching the play carefully enough.
Here’s the rub. Anger has its limits. It might get your rival knocked off her perch, but now that you’re sitting there you have to do something constructive. And this is where anger just runs out of gas. If you want to knock something (or someone) down, indignation (better yet, righteous indignation) is your friend. If you want to build something (or someone) up, well… not so much.
So to leaders who find themselves in positions of power (and yes, I’m talking to myself as much as anyone), I offer this suggestion: Now isn’t the time to gloat, goad, or glory. It’s time to govern. Maybe it’s even time to be gracious.
Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before your followers get mad again…