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Leading with Enthusiasm not Fear
Fear and anger speak to things beyond our control
“Dread attends the unknown.” — Nadine Gordimer, 1998
Can you remember the managers you worked for who inspired you the most? What stands out about them?
We all seek different things with our teams, so your mileage will vary. But I’ll bet you thought about someone who supported you, who took the time to understand your challenges, who gave you responsibility, and the room to fail and to learn from those failures.
Now what about the other kind of manager—the kind you might not have enjoyed?
Perhaps it was the micromanager, or someone who pressured you with unrealistic deadlines, or who took credit for your good work, or barked orders without rolling up his sleeves.
The juxtaposition of those two types of managers is the difference between a boss and a leader.
Bossy = Fearful
“An ugly sight, a man who’s afraid.” — Jean Anouilh, 1944
A boss thinks in terms of “me,” while a leader thinks of “we.”
A boss will take credit or blame others, while a leader will give credit and shoulder the blame.
A boss issues commands, while a leader asks and listens.
A boss depends on the authority of the job title, while a leader leans on the entire team and builds mutual accountability and trust.
A boss instills fear while a leader inspires with enthusiasm.
The connection between fear and anger is deeply woven into the human psyche. The animalistic "fight-or-flight" response is literally comprised of anger (fight) and fear (flight).
Jedi Master Yoda (hey, if these missives are about timeless wisdom, he was from “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”) cautioned:
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
And that’s the point — your anger at work may eventually wear away, but in its absence, you’ll find bitterness. The kind of thing that will eat away at you.
In fact, in his essay “On Anger,” Seneca wrote:
“There is no more stupefying thing than anger, nothing more bent on its own strength. If successful, none more arrogant, if foiled, none more insane—since it's not driven back by weariness even in defeat, when fortune removes its adversary it turns its teeth on itself.”
And what have we been driven by over the last few years online, but fear and anger? It’s the basis of much of what we’re seeing in the news today.
Emotional Intelligence = Enthusiasm
“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” — Albert Camus, c. 1940
By contrast, leaders manage to keep their heads above the din and provide a positive direction. They serve as something of a moral compass and cheerleader.
Most leaders that you admire are emotionally intelligent. That is, they are able to recognize their own feelings and other people’s emotions, and use that emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.
And what is leadership but getting along with other people?
The business world functions because people — colleagues, employees, customers, suppliers — work together.
Negotiation, haggling, sales, setting vision, strategy and goals, and other key business functions require us to collaborate and interact with others in a constructive way.
The image above shows the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius distributing bread to citizens. He was widely respected as a philosopher (a thinker!) and a philanthropist, as opposed to the very typical tyrannical emperors of the era.
He took joy in his life, because he took the time to reflect on his thoughts and deeds every day, documenting it along the way. He was very much an emotionally intelligent leader.
For my own part, I had the great fortune of working with Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford Motor Company from 2006-2014 (I was there from 2008-2014). Alan was perpetually enthusiastic—about the company, about meeting people, about life—and it was infectious.
Alan lifted people up. He smiled. He asked questions. He made it so you couldn’t help but want to get his approval.
Every day, every minute, he demonstrated the Heliotropic Effect. That is, he was light rather than darkness, and most living things seek out the light. We thrive on the positive.
Like Marcus Aurelius, Alan Mulally, and the leaders you no doubt have admired, inspiring people comes from joy and enthusiasm, not through fear and intimidation.
Make a difference to others. Be the sun, not the salt.
Thanks, and I’ll see you on the internet.
P.S. Since you made it this far, here are two more on anger: