I’m lucky enough to work with very accomplished leaders in very successful organizations. My work gives me a front-row seat into the everyday work lives of these leaders and their key teams. I get to see them at their best and when they’re doing less than their best.
Here’s what I notice: one of the most precious commodities in leadership behavior is good, old-fashioned self-control. For all of the legitimate focus these days on passion and fire, self-control can often carry the day where those other attributes – uncontrolled – may actually get in the way. Self-control is simply being able to restrain your typical impulses so that you can get what you really want in the long run.
Here’s an example. One of my executive clients recently had a very difficult interaction with a key business team. They had been assigned what seemed to him a simple task and had failed to accomplish it.
“I mentally composed and was repeatedly tempted to send a flaming email to them, but I thought better of it.”
Good thing! Flaming emails, though full of “passion” and momentarily therapeutic, rarely get us what we want in the long term. They don’t get us improved performance, sharper focus, and highly motivated team members. They just dump a mess on the floor – a mess leaders invariably wind up mopping up themselves!
Winston Churchill, a notable leader with quite a temper, saved himself many messes by simply having his wife review memos before he sent them out. More than once, he buried a memo and in hindsight thanked Clementine for her wisdom.
How about you? What situations make self-control a challenge for you? What do you do to control yourself in those situations?