In my last blog I mentioned a confrontational leader who made people uncomfortable with his selective anger. A [successful] boss will know how to be–only at times–unpredictable in order to achieve an end result. It is an essential component of strategic leadership, knowing when to dip in to one’s repertoire and pull out the right expression, honed over many years. Anger is only one of many to play..
President Obama clearly has all the right leadership content, in no small part because of his even-handedness. It is nothing short of astounding to be as even-tempered in public as he is, through the scathing comments during the primaries, on-going racist remarks, Limbaugh rants, the recent peanut gallery taunting anything to get a rise from him and be labeled an angry black man, the recent 4th estate taunting… And he doesn’t bite. That is almost always the right thing to do, as the game is lost when the temper goes.
Almost always the right thing to do. The recent questions to press secretary Robert Gibbs about Obama’s temper changed all that, Maureen Dowd called him “President Spock”, criticizing his “inability to encapsulate Americans feelings” and Spike Lee chiming in “One time go off”,
“I am furious at this entire situation, I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people, but that’s not the job I was hired to do.” “My job is to solve this problem, and ultimately this isn’t about me and how angry I am.”
“If jumping up and down and screaming were to fix a hole in the ocean, we’d have done that five or six weeks ago.”
Reporter to Gibbs: “Can you describe [his rage]?? Does he yell and scream? What does he do?”
Gibbs: “He has been in a whole bunch of different meetings—clenched jaw—even in the midst of these briefings, saying everything has to be done.”
And he was just in the Gulf, livid, hopping up and down. The oil spill will hardly be solved through any rants, but there is a lesson here.
Moral of the story:
He listened to what was being said, and shifted his public stance. Not radically, as no one would have bought it if he started bellowing. But he did listen to what was being said.
This is part of how a good coach can counsel to their clients, listen to what the visible and less visible challenges are and review various behavioural responses, not just thinking up ideas. Most issues in (or out of) work are fully grounded on emotion, not logic, but no one at work pays you to have emotion–you’re there to ‘do a job’. But since we’re not yet machines, we act through our emotions–how could it possibly be otherwise? Controlling one’s emotions is extraordinarily difficult, and acting counter to what one feels is hard, but if it achieves the best possible end result, it’s worth it. If Obama is capable of it, any of us mere mortals can do the same–with good coaching, that is..
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