Steve Jobs. Larry Ellison. Steve Ballmer. These and many other tech executives, past and present, embody the reputation of the monster boss, whose temper is feared more than the late nights, mini-breakdowns, and public humiliation sometimes required to please them.
But for other, less famous and/or talented corporate leaders, having a bad temper can be a misstep with dire consequences. Just ask former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.
"When you lose your temper you lose respect," notes one
"how to" executive management guide. And if you think that's not true, take a look around during the next meeting or conference where someone loses it. Note the rolling eyeballs, chuckles, and flurry of smartphone activity.
By the way, we're talking temper tantrums here, the kind that involve raised voices, nasty email attacks, and executive rants. Consultant Steve Tobak draws the line between these behaviors and a bit of work-related aggression:
Nobody's saying that heated debated or constructive confrontation -- a term coined at Intel (INTC) when Andy Grove ran the show -- is bad. It's not. It's absolutely healthy in a business environment where people are engaged and passionate about the company and its product. There's a big difference between that and acting out in anger.
A leader who loses his or her temper loses control, violating a tenet of executive behavior -- self-discipline and restraint. According to Daniel Goleman, the consultant and Rutgers professor made famous for his assessment of "emotional intelligence" for business leaders, the "ability to control or redirect disruptive inpulses and and moods" and the "ability to think before acting" are hallmarks of successful leaders. (Hear more from Goleman in the video below.)
What should you do if you have an anger problem? Don't give in to it, and if need be, get help, says Steve Tobak:
Anger and rage, the kind that results in blowups, tirades or abusive treatment of others, is almost never about what you think it's about. And it's certainly not about whatever it is you're raving about when you see red. It comes from inside and you're misdirecting it at someone else. Recognize it for what it is and get some professional help. You'll be a much happier and more successful person.
We've all known abusive bosses. Perhaps you've been one. But in today's enterprise environment, which values interaction, social networking, and flattened hierarchies, it's getting tough to succeed with a red face and raised voice.
Key difference between military and business: In business you can pick your battles. You can choose where you want to compete and with whom. A company can, for example, decide it's a luxury brand and abandon the low-end market to bargain competitors.
In the military, you don't have that option. Someone attacks you, you fight back or lose.
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