What is Leadership? Is it about Command and Control? Is it about getting things done my way and my way only?

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picture of angry man“Hey!! Why do you put the things like that!?!?? You should put these things into the bag and then put the bag under the table!!!???

I froze and turned my gaze towards where the commotion was coming from. It was a Retail Supervisor yelling at a Retail Staff who was obviously struggling to do things right. And this was happening on a Sunday afternoon in a major shopping center located right in the middle of Orchard Road!

I froze in my tracks not because I was scared, but because I was shocked! I could not believe my ears! At that instant, several things ran through my mind. I asked myself: how would I have felt if I were the one at the receiving end of that outburst? I instantly felt for the retail staff who was getting the brunt of the insults – the emotional pain and the embarrassment of getting a dressing-down in public.

But it didn’t end there! Before the Retail Supervisor stormed off in a fit of anger, she said: “I can’t stand it. You are so stupid!!???

My head was still reeling from the shock. I asked myself: How could anyone be so insensitive?

How would you have felt if you were the one at the receiving end of the insults? How would you have reacted if you were in that situation?

And if you were in the shoes of that supervisor, would you have done that?

How can we avoid such awkward situations? How do we deal with such conflicts in our daily lives? Is this what Leadership is all about?

Today I will highlight just three simply rules to help us deal with emotionally charged situations like the one I have just described and how we as Leaders, can mitigate the risk of such outbursts.

1. Keep emotions in check
Emotional outburst can be toxic. Never let your emotions go unchecked. It poisons relationships and destroys trust. When our emotions run high, we are not in control of ourselves. Instead, our emotions control us. In most cases, when we are emotionally charged up, we end up doing and saying really stupid things that we will likely regret later. And once the relationship has been damaged and the trust broken, it will take a tremendous amount of effort and energy to repair the broken trust. In some cases, the damage is permanent.

2. Never talk when angry
Never hold a conversation when you are angry. Anger clouds our judgement and pushes us to do and say hurtful things that we cannot retract. There is no Backspace key or the Delete button that we can use to erase words that are said in anger.

Walk away when you are angry and return to the conversation once you have cooled down.

Ambrose Bierce once said: “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.???

3. View issues from the other person’s perspective
The best way avoid clouding your own judgement and jumping to conclusions is to learn to see things from the other person’s perspective. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see it from their perspective.

In most cases, misunderstandings arise due to the restrictive nature of our own mindset. Most of the time, we look at people through this long and narrow tube and we judge them by what we see. It is like looking through a telescope. What you see is only what you want to see!

Being able to see things from another person’s perspective is all about Mindfulness. We all need to learn to be more mindful of the people around us and to try to look at things from other people’s perspectives.

We constantly come into contact with people in our daily lives – whether it’s our friends, our colleagues, or our family members. And some friction cannot be avoided. However we can avoid putting ourselves and our colleagues in awkward situations by practicing the above three rules:

  1. Keep your emotions in check
  2. Never engage in conversation when you are angry
  3. Be Mindful of other people’s perspective

More importantly as Leaders, we should set the correct example for our staff to emulate and follow. Leadership is not about you and having things your way. True leadership is about environmental awareness, people awareness and most of all, self-awareness. Effective leadership requires a healthy dose of sincerity, authenticity and altruism.


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May 28, 2013

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