An Entrepreneur's Guide To Confronting And Harnessing Anger
I’ve long since subscribed to the notion that a leader should be slow to anger and quick to kindness.
I always try to see the best in people and meet them wherever they are in their lives. After all, you never know what else is happening in their world that may influence their behavior.
By nature, I’m not an angry person. In fact, I’m a major advocate for the concept of “zen leadership.”
However, I’m still human and when I get angry, I get very angry.
I’m not one to yell or pound my fist. Instead, my anger is suppressed and ignored until it boils over. When that happens, the reaction is visceral and intense.
To quote John Dryden, the 17th century, British poet and dramatist, “Beware the fury of a patient man.”
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve truly lost my temper. It’s a fact that I pride myself on because as an entrepreneur I routinely deal with things that would send the average person into a rage-induced fit.
For a long time, I worked to suppress anger rather than confront it head-on. It was only when this became too much to bear that I realized something had to change.
It turns out that anger, when focused and controlled, can be an effective tool for both personal and professional development.
Recognize that anger is often fear in disguise
The first question you have to ask yourself when confronting your own feelings is “Why am I so angry?” The question may seem simple on the surface, but dig a bit deeper, and it becomes clear that it is often layered and complex.
There’s a difference between anger and annoyance. True, meaningful anger is the force that hijacks your very soul and influences your decisions.
For many of us, anger is just fear in disguise. It doesn’t matter what it is - fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of feeling small - fear can lead a person down a very dark path.
I know that in this particular case, my anger is often rooted in my fear of failure.
When people let me down, or situations devolve, it reflects poorly on both me as a leader and on our company as a whole.
No one wants to admit that they were duped or had a significant lapse in judgment to their partners, friends, and supporters. The anger that we often experience is simply a primal reaction to an unfortunate reality.
By getting angry, we think we can somehow shift blame away from ourselves and avoid the shame of admitting failure.
Anger can fuel your creativity and resolve
Of course, the act of recognizing the underlying cause of your anger does not absolve the actions of the guilty party.
Instead, this recognition merely robs anger of the power it holds over you and your actions.
Anger, when properly focused, can be a very powerful motivator. It can help reinforce your resolve, help you to overcome obstacles, and build grit.
My advice to fellow entrepreneurs and everyone for that matter is to transform your anger into something positive and creative.
In my case, I found that anger often pushes me to find a creative solution to the situation at hand.
Use it to rally others to your cause
Anger is a universal emotion, and as such can draw others to support your cause.
Of course, as history shows, this can cut both ways. In the worst instances, anger can lead to a dangerous “us vs. them” mentality. However, when the cause is just, and people remain rational, anger can help bring about positive change.
For teams, shared anger can lead people to rally around finding a solution to the problem at hand and push themselves further than they ever thought possible.
It’s okay to get angry; in fact, it’s a central part of the human experience.
However, if left unchecked, anger can be self-destructive. The things that you think might make you feel better can easily backfire and make matters worse.
Instead, it’s important (for entrepreneurs in particular) to find ways to use your anger to your advantage.
Whether it’s conquering the fears that give way to rage or channeling it into a creative endeavor, you can find ways to rob anger of its destructive power and transform it into a powerful ally.