Last weekend I was walking along the Hudson River behind a family of four — two adults and their children, a boy and a girl that I would guess were ages 8 and 6, respectively. The father, named Steve, was talking to his wife while the boy was walking at her side in an absent-minded, zoned-out way. Then, right in front of me, the boy stumbled, almost tripping his mother. She asked him to please be careful so nobody would get hurt. Hearing this, the father yelled at his son “did you hear what your mother just said?” He then reached around his wife, grabbed the boy gruffly and looked at him. Suddenly, the father changed his demeanor, smiled at his son and gave him a big hug and the family kept walking without further incident.
What I had witnessed in a casual family setting was exactly the way leaders behave all too often, reacting quickly with anger rather than pausing to consider the correct, tactful response to suddenly stressful encounters. The timing of seeing this was interesting because I had just finished reading Dan Harris’s book, 10% Happier, a thoughtful autobiographical primer on how to use mindfulness to manage stress-induced behaviors in the workplace.
Leaders who don’t learn to manage their hostile instincts of the moment are destined for one of two unsatisfactory outcomes:
- ● failing to make it to the top echelons of leadership because they are perceived as lacking in emotional intelligence
- ● failing to deliver great leadership outcomes because of the negative effect they have on other people
The best approach for addressing this is strong leadership training specifically aimed at positive behavioral interactions. And the best time to teach these behaviors is when the individuals are first named as high potentials, giving them a key tool they will need to progress further in their leadership roles.