Harnessing Emotions — Leadership

Big Red Car here in the tropical rain forest known as Austin by God Texas.

It’s been raining a little here. Not that we don’t need it; we do. If we did not have such an arid climate, we would not be complaining but we are not really used to this much rain; so we complain.

Shame on us.

In life, we are propelled ever forward by our emotions — driven by the slings, arrows, slights, insults that are visited upon us and which tempt us to anger. Anger can be very destructive. How are you harnessing emotions?

Listen carefully — this is a “good” thing. Not a GOOD thing, a “good” thing.

The Boss was talking to a CEO the other day. He was very angry. The Boss asked, “What are you going to do with all this anger?”

The CEO said, “What are you talking about, you idiot?” [He didn’t actually say the “idiot” part but the Big Red Car, who knows “stuff”, is pretty sure he was thinking it. So go with my version for color, no?]

“Turn it into fuel,” said The Boss who actually believes that the pain we suffer in life can be transferred into something he calls “revenge motivation.” He says it is a real thing.

The Boss, who is both a contrarian and a contrary person [Haha, the Big Red Car may be sleeping with the fishes soon. Protect me, dear readers.], has lived it.


Leaders, in business and in life, come in for their fair share of slights. It goes with the territory. If you win an election, you also simultaneously identify a substantial number of people who did NOT vote for you.

Successful leaders, smart ones, try to harness this opportunity — the power of the slight and the target audience of the “slighters” — to their advantage. They have the fuel and they know where to use it.

Of course, the classic example of this is the anecdote about telling a driven person, “You can’t do that.”

Get out of the way while Type A puts her footprints (imagine high heels) against your forehead while “doing” exactly what you doubted they could do.

Bad Example

Recently, the country got a good example of how not to do it.

The President had been seeking approval on his authority to negotiate and enter into trade pacts, in particular, in the Pacific region. The Big Red Car doesn’t have a strong opinion one way or another.

The President and a lot of the Republicans — yes, it was the President and the Republicans, you read that correctly — came up short on the effort, defeated by members of the President’s own party.

The President, unhappy with the outcome (to understate his reaction more than a bit), lashed out and questioned the intelligence and knowledge of his opponents. Worse, he did it publicly. You would recognize the behavior if you have ever spent any time with 4-year olds trying to play together. It is why little kids should not be given martial arts instruction.

By his reaction, the President has arguably torn his shorts with these folks, who previously were his most ardent supporters, but, more importantly, he has undermined his ability to revisit the subject toward a successful outcome.

As a CEO, you cannot behave like that and expect to succeed. You must learn to take short term — note, the Big Red Car said “short term” cause in the long term, you’re going to change some minds, aren’t you — slights and turn them into long term successes. You can’t do that if you publicly bitch slap your opponents.

Good Example

An excellent CEO was chatting with The Boss and was lamenting that he was having a hard time hiring the right people for his company. They spoke about it for a long time and it became apparent the CEO’s process was just fine. It was his content. He wasn’t communicating the opportunity accurately and his candidates were outrunning their coverage — getting tired of listening.

“Why is this happening?” asked the otherwise borderline brilliant CEO.

“You haven’t perfected your pitch,” said The Boss. “Each time, it’s a little different, disjointed. Firm it up and you’ll have better results.”

Whereupon, the CEO went back to Ground Zero and revisited his Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values, Culture and Performance Appraisal systems. It took him a month of long hours and hard work.

When he was finished, he took that planning and learning and condensed it into a pitch to new candidates. These were fairly senior candidates. Potentially, very big achievers. Hard people to find and hire. They were all already working and were, technically, not in play. The CEO, with his new pitch, put them into play.

In a month, the now clearer CEO made two spectacular hires. His pitch was tight and easy to communicate — the result only of his work and his now unshakeable conviction in his planning. The Boss could almost taste it.

The CEO had taken the pain of failure and turned it into hard work — the re-tooling of the planning documents of his entire company, something that was long overdue he admitted in retrospect. With that alignment, he was able to tell a better, more accurate story, and he was able to break through the resistance. He did this. He did this by himself.

He harnessed the pain of failure and turned it into work. The work became the basis for his success.

When life starts throwing lemons at you, start squeezing those little bastards and making lemonade. Then, take the lemonade and drown the lemon throwers with it. [OK, the “drown” part is a little extreme. Go “serve” the lemon throwers some lemonade.]

Harness the slights of your life and use them as fuel.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Keep praying for rain. The lakes have risen about eight feet, only fifty more feet to go! Bring on the rain.


3 thoughts on “Harnessing Emotions — Leadership

  1. Resourcefulness is making lemonade from lemons. Ingenuity is making lemonade from puddle water. If it’s still raining then get busy!! When it dries up, make a recipe for instant lemonade from dirt.

Comments are closed.