Think about a successful entrepreneur or the last great leader you worked under. They are rational. They are logical. They are authentic. In the midst of crisis, danger and chaos they remain focused, to the point and direct.

They dont get angry easily or at the least show their anger.

Unless of course they are Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or that successful entrepreneur who stops at nothing.

The most preached trait to be a successful and effective leader is to swallow or ignore emotions like anger, frustration at work. Be professional or go home, right?


According to research conducted by Henry Evans and Colm Foster, emotional intelligence experts and authors of Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter, the highest performing people and teams make use of the entire range of emotions.

Which, if you think about it, makes sense. We all get angry. So why not take advantage of it? Both Evans and Foster say anger is actually beneficial when harnessed and controlled because it feeds two pragmatic behavioral capabilities:

  •  Anger creates Focus
    Get mad and you tend to focus on just one thing i.e the source of your anger. You don’t get sidetracked. You are not tempted to multitask. All you see is the problem in front of you. This intensity of focus can be extremely powerful.
  • Anger generates Confidence
    Get mad and the natural rush of adrenaline heightens your senses and reduces your inhibitions. Anger–in small doses–can be the spark that gets you started.

But there is one big problem with getting angry. When you are angry, its easy to do and say thing which you might regret later. Hence key to harnessing anger is to find a way to stay smart and in control while you are angry. The worst you can do is to get anger get the worst of you by venting it on others.

This sounds hard right? Not so much. This these examples.

1. Get mad about an Action, not a Person. Say an employee made a mistake. Venting out by stating, “How could you be so stupid?” may make you feel better for about 10 seconds–but it does not help anyone.

Instead say, “You do a great job, but I’m really struggling to understand why you did that. Can we talk about it?” Guiding your frustration at the action and not the person [employee] helps reduce his/her feelings of defensiveness while still allowing you to express your frustration–which will help you both focus on solving the problem.

2. Use anger to overcome Anxiety or Fear. When we are scared or nervous we often later regret what we didn’t say.

Say you’re mad because a supplier didn’t come through, but you’re scared to say anything because you might damage a long-term business relationship. Don’t hide from your fear or your anger. Accept that you’re mad. Show, at least to a limited degree, that you’re mad.

When you do, the rush of adrenaline will help move you out of the fear zone and into the sweet spot where you’re excited and passionate and motivated–but not unreasonable or irrational.

Start Small
Most people try and hold on to their feeling of anger for way too long. Their feelings build up and not longer after, they explode. Totally loosing it counterproductive to say the least and could be damaging to your reputation. They key is to be in control and to express the storm of unrest inside you  slowly and steadily. Work it up from irritation, then to frustration and finally anger.

When you feel irritated, don’t  hide those feelings. Think about how you feel, think about why you feel the way you feel.  Now work with how you feel. Say what you need to say , letting some of your irritation show through. Make it a narrative, helps the received understand the message better and he/his would not feel surprised.

Then move to the next level, expressing frustration. Remember to stay focused, stay focused on how you feel.  Ask yourself whether you’re using your frustration as a weapon or as a tool.

Then move to the final level, expressing anger. Again, be in control. Are you in charge of your anger and actions, or is anger in charge of you?

With practice you will be able to express your pissed off self effectively and still handle yourself appropriately.

Anger is Authentic
Anger is authentic and so are great leaders. And that is why we follow them.

Want to be a great leader? Be authentic, do not pretend. Express yourself in a controlled and harnessed way.

“As we say to our clients,” write Foster and Evans, “don’t pretend. Be upset, but be intelligent while you’re upset.” That is the best  way to sustain your professional relationships as you work through challenges. 

Feeling are important, to humans they are. It is a good move to direct your team’s focus on past feelings and make them feel connected through common feeling. Say your team lost a contract. If you’re frustrated with your team’s performance, don’t be afraid to say, “Let’s go back to that day. Remember what happened when those [jerks] took that contract. Remember how we all felt. Remember the letter they wrote us canceling our contract. Every time I read it I get mad.”

Expressing those feelings will help the team stay focused. It’s a powerful reminder that sometimes business is not business as usual.

Used correctly, anger can take you places. Great leaders get angry.