Leadership and anger
Communication Intelligence, an online magazine about effective communications in a professional context, has published my comments as part of its recent Communication Intelligence Special Series.
The series, according to the site, “examines leaders caught up in the emotional storm of anger, who then choose to communicate that anger in ways that can range from strategic and helpful to less than effective and maybe, destructive to objectives.”
It was based on recent comments by French President Emmanuel Macron criticizing unvaccinated citizens and imposing new restrictions in an
attempt to increase the vaccination rate in France. The magazine’s editor wanted comments on whether such communication helps or hurts, and what it shows about leadership.
Following is what I wrote:
True leadership is often shown, and most seriously tested, during crises and other difficult times. The pandemic that has gripped the world for two years has made leadership at all levels more important than ever and, in some cases, exposed the lack thereof.
When leaders decide how to approach communications, it is a fine line between being too passive and overly aggressive. This pandemic, however, has a dynamic that makes how to communicate even more difficult: Resistance to rules and vaccines. This widespread and vocal resistance has created a divide in nations that has caused those in leadership positions, especially at the national level such as presidents, to rethink what they must do to both keep their citizens safe and unite their country.
Good leadership means articulating a vision and building support leading to a consensus. While leadership styles differ, all are based on human interaction, that necessary communication between and among people.
Criticizing those who disagree with you is never a successful strategy. It hardens their resolve to disagree and gives them even more reason to resist. That’s especially true in this situation where people are taking any rules about masks, social distancing and, especially, vaccine mandates, as attacks on their personal freedoms. If you tell someone they’re wrong, you’ll never persuade them you’re right.
Nearly 5.5 million people have died worldwide from the COVID-19 virus. A leader who cares about her or his citizens is both saddened and frustrated as that toll mounts. That frustration is understandable but needs to be tempered with the belief that, ultimately, the message will get through and people will make the right decisions.