Losing your cool is a weakness

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The first step in taking ownership is to acknowledge a mistake or failure. But when you do this, be careful to watch your language.

Some people are raised to see an outburst of anger as an exercise of authority or a way to exert oneself, as a sign of strength. But when you aren’t able to detach from your emotions, it’s actually a sign of weakness.

It May Sometimes Work Tactically, but It’s a Strategic Loser

Losing your cool may sometimes work in an immediate situation, to get people’s attention. It may force someone to do a certain thing your way. But more often, it generates conflict and animosity. It escalates a situation that should be de-escalated. In the long run, losing your temper and allowing yourself to be ruled by emotion only burns relationships and results in a loss of respect by all who can see that you can’t control yourself.

What is Self-Control? It is a Powerful Ancient Concept

This isn’t a new concept. Israel’s King Solomon wrote about this nearly 3,000 years ago:
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.   – Proverbs 16:32

Solomon says that controlling yourself is more powerful than leading a conquering army.

How to Have Self-Control

Some of us are born with shorter tempers than others. I’ve struggled mightily with what Jocko calls “Angry Leif.” I had to learn that it’s not a good thing to lose control of my temper and worked hard to overcome it. In the seventeen years that Jocko and I have worked together, I can’t recall a single situation where he yelled at me. Not once. And I’m sure I have given him plenty of reasons where doing so could easily have been justified. But he didn’t. That’s good leadership.

All of us have to learn to control our temper—to not lose control of our emotions, but to keep them in check. This requires disciplined effort and practice. And it requires you to detach.

What Good Leadership Looks Like

When you get emotional, when you lose your cool, you don’t make good decisions. Therefore, detach from your emotions and think strategically in every interaction with others.

When you see others losing control of their emotions, this provides an opportunity to detach. Instead of confronting them or ramping up your emotions to match theirs, remain calm and de-escalate the situation. That is what good leadership looks like.

Real-World example:

“You can’t talk to this new generation like we were brought up,” said the foreman.

“They’re too sensitive. When I was growing up in this industry, people chewed you out. That’s just the way it was. You learned and you got over it. But these days, you can’t do that.”

“Did you like it when people yelled at you?” I asked.

The foreman looked at me, a little puzzled. It seemed liked he’d probably had this conversation with so many others who shared this same view, that he had never considered the question.

“I don’t know if anybody actually likes to be yelled at,” he admitted.

“Do you think that’s the most effective way to lead?” I asked.

“Probably, not,” he admitted.

We discussed some ways to provide feedback that might be more effective.

“It starts with you taking ownership,” I said.

For Action:

This week, embrace every frustrating challenge at work or home as a training opportunity to practice keeping your emotions in check. Whether it’s a colleague you disagree with at work, a traffic jam on your commute to the office, or simply trying to corral your children in the grocery store, embrace every challenge life throws at you as a training opportunity to detach, remain calm, control your temper, and think strategically. This will enable you to make the best decisions for yourself, your team, and your family. And it will earn respect and build good relationships with those around you, enabling you to WIN.

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