Should leaders throw temper tantrums?

Anger is an energising emotion that calls people to action. When channelled correctly, it fuels change. Does this work in the Indian context?

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When Indra Nooyi became the CEO of Pepsico in 2006, she met Steve Jobs who advised her that as a CEO she should sometimes raise her voice, change her tone, and show her anger and disapproval.

As the head of Pepsico for 12 years, Nooyi used this valuable tool of ‘not always being nice’ to her advantage, and she credits Jobs for having taught her this powerful lesson. She learned to pound tables, raise her voice, and demonstrate anger, and obtained phenomenal results too!

Nooyi talks about the ‘Temper Tantrum Tool’ in her interviews and it features in her top ten powerful lessons for successful leaders.

Armaan Seth

“Raising one’s voice, banging a fist on the table and a show of anger does not work in the Indian culture”

 

What is the psyche behind this tool?

Assertiveness

Leaders who demonstrate assertiveness are overachievers. The temper tantrum tool helps leaders assert themselves by being direct, honest and expressing their feelings openly. It helps them delegate work and demand action that aligns with their needs.

Faster action

Leaders expect quick action from employees in matters that require urgency. The anger tool helps to drive the laid back and slow-acting employees. It provides them with inertia to act fast and in the best possible way.

Confidence

Only confident leaders can afford to get angry because their emotion is driven by outcome and not insecurity. Confident leaders are not afraid of saying something because they are competent and possess courage. The automatic rush of adrenaline in using the anger emotion helps to reduce all inhibitions and the leaders appear very confident to their employees.

No compromise

Leaders who have crystal-clear vision for a task, action or design will not be able to tolerate compromise. A small deviation may be unacceptable to them.

Richard Lobo

“I don’t think the anger tool is needed. The way I handle things, I don’t need it. There are many ways of getting work done without being angry. It’s not that we don’t get angry, but it is just an emotion”

We cannot underestimate the power of anger as an emotion. As humans, we all feel angry from time to time. Avoiding it or pretending it doesn’t exist, is destructive. The best way to handle anger is to feel it, and to try to understand where it’s coming from. Leaders who use this emotion productively have been able to produce phenomenal results.

Research says the key is to slowly and steadily build up your emotion from irritation to anger. Leaders use aggression towards an assignment/task in hand and not on the people. This tool does not entitle leaders to use anger to fuel their egos and take out personal vendetta against employees.

HRKatha asked senior HR leaders whether they use the anger tool, and whether it works in the Indian context.

“Raising one’s voice, banging a fist on the table and a show of anger does not work in the Indian culture,” says Armaan Seth, head-HR, Philips.

“I don’t think the anger tool is needed. The way I handle things, I don’t need it. There are many ways of getting work done without being angry. It’s not that we don’t get angry, but it is just an emotion. We don’t use it as a tool to get results. Rather, when you are angry you are unable to bring in rationality and discussion to the table,” opines Richard Lobo, head-HR & EVP, Infosys

“We don’t use the anger tool, nor do we use anything that connotes a negative emotion. We drive the culture of performance through constructive feedback on an assignment. We don’t wait till the end of the task to give a feedback; instant and open feedback helps employees gauge what the management is feeling about their work before they finish it. A nudge is enough to make them hold the mirror. We don’t need to use the anger tool,” opines Seth.

While leaders in the West have been able to use the anger emotion to drive their teams, in the Indian context this is yet to be seen. All the other leaders that we spoke to also declined the use of anger as a leadership tool.

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