Leadership & The Destructive Nature of Emotional Stupidity

Aristotle once said, “Anyone can get angry. That’s easy. But to get angry in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time and with the right person…that’s not so easy”

I was reminded of this the other day when on television, I, along with countless others witnessed this:

It appears that the man, a minor league hockey coach, deliberately trips two boys on the opposing team resulting in one of the boys sustaining an injury.

There are many theories about what happened here, including the coach’s claim that his foot ‘slipped’.   There is further film showing the man ‘flipping the bird’ toward a group of parents in the stands who were showing their outrage. To date, the incident is under police investigation.  The coach is disgraced and now likely suspended or unemployed.  He may also be charged with felony assault. And, it is possible that the minor hockey league has also sustained a blow to its own reputation.

This is a prime example of what can happen when we allow our emotions to run amok.

Some say this man was provoked, pushed beyond endurance.  None of us knows for sure. But, from a leadership perspective, there are some things I think we can reasonably conclude:

Role modeling cuts both ways

It was reported that boys on both teams were trading insults throughout the course of the game.  This coach was apparently a popular target. While it was no doubt highly frustrating for him, it was also entirely possible that his own behaviour gave the boys the unspoken permission they needed to respond in kind.

Lesson # 1 ~ If you want people to behave well and follow the principles of fair play, be clear about what those principles are; ensure there are consequences for failing to adhere to them; and above all, be meticulous about following them yourself.

Self-management is critical to successful leadership

No matter what the provocation, indulging in hissy fits in the presence of others is just wrong.  It serves no useful purpose except to ensure that your working environment will increase in toxicity each time you allow it to happen.

Lesson # 2 ~ Leadership is not about you. Get over yourself.

Respect is hard earned …and lost in the blink of an eye

This coach may well have many grievances to report about players and parents alike.  Some of his complaints might even be well founded.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, it was his job to provide leadership to those boys; a framework of acceptable behaviour that would help them grow to be good men.  He failed.  And, somewhere along the line, they gave him some very poor marks for it.  Whatever respect he may have earned as coach of his team, quickly dissolved in the time it took for him to lift his foot and upend two unsuspecting players.

Lesson #3 ~ Think before you act…or live to regret it.


There is really no happy ending to this story except perhaps if this coach decides to change something about himself as result of the consequences he is bound to suffer for having behaved so badly.

Could it happen to any one of us?  We’d like to think not, of course.  But, before we get too judgmental or complacent let’s remember the last time we leaned on our car horns and said some colourful things to the person a couple of cars away who just cut us off.  We get angry.  It happens.  But being aware of our own triggers and managing them is important, not just for our own well-being but to ensure that we do not sabotage what we spend so much of our valuable time building.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?



Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development

18 responses to “Leadership & The Destructive Nature of Emotional Stupidity

  1. Alex Jones

    “Let him who be chief be a bridge to his people”. This coach failed in that.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Alex ~ Yup. Succinctly put. Thanks for that and the great quote. Who said it?

      • Alex Jones

        Bran in the Mabinogion.

      • Gwyn Teatro

        Thanks! I had to look that one up. And, as legend has it, Bran’s head continued to talk for seven years after it was separated from the rest of his body! So glad that doesn’t happen to everybody. It doesn’t bear thinking about! 🙂
        Thanks for the reference. For anyone else wanting to know more about ‘Bran the Blessed’ here’s a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bran_the_Blessed

  2. Be aware of your triggers, lest you let any person or situation control you. And, as in the case of this coach who yses his platform and power poorly, someone is alway watching, assessing and learning from and about you.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Martina ~ Good point. Someone is always watching, especially now when technology ensures it. Thank you for that.

  3. Yes, Yes & Yes! Love this post I concur wholeheartedly 🙂

  4. Gwyn, great post! People in this position believe they’re the victim. They can’t improve their situation so they’ll destroy everyone else’s situation.

    I disagree in one area though. Another “good thing” that comes from something like this results when people confront it with their behavior (I’ll never do that.) or with other actions like this post. You’ve made something very positive out of this.

    Finally, this can happen to any one of us. Before anyone acts this way, they’ve thought it hundreds of times. We must beat this behavior in our minds, in “who we are” or our character long before we act it out. Otherwise, after practicing it over and over for years, it “just happens.”

    Thanks for the challenging reminders. Mike…

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Mike ~ Yes, perhaps by shining light on this kind of unacceptable behaviour, we can effect change. And, as Martina points out, there are fewer places for us to hide given the capabilities technology provides. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your kind words.
      Character counts. You are ensuring it holds a greater place in business and life through your own work. Thank you for that too.

  5. This was an excellent post, I am teaching two emotional intelligence classes this week and will reference this as a reminder to all. Knowing about EQ and being able to apply the concepts consistently, especially when under pressure, are two very different things. Like all things, developing one’s EQ takes time and practice.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Morag ~ If this post serves a useful purpose to you and your students, then it was well worth the writing. Thank you for that and for taking the time to comment.

  6. Excellent post.
    Looking forward to the day when the Leadership industry will devote more time to “Self Leadership” even though it is not as financially attractive as other areas of Leadership.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Ade ~ Thanks for weighing in here. I think, when we are successful in convincing more leaders that strong self-leadership can equal a healthier bottom line, more time, and money will be spent on it.

  7. Gwyn – I believe leadership is always by example, and the example must first be to act in such a way that we feel a sense of rightness about emulating our own actions. Teaching oneself first, and then an immersion in focus on the matter at hand – a learning process which along the way grows both in depth and breadth, until, without a real conscious awareness, we are times surprised that our actions are mirrored by others. The quality of mercy is not the only thing that is not strained. A good coach does not fly off the handle. Period. No matter what. A good driver does not become distracted by idiotic behavior on the part of drivers around and about, let alone get engaged in some sort of misplaced zeal to prove a point. (That’s lesson #3 – Think before act, or live to regret it. We all know the stories about the two cars engaged in battle who will get the parking place. One I heard on the recently did not live to regret it, the crash was that bad.)
    I am very glad you so kindly responded to my (I would say almost) challenge to authenticate that Aristotle quote. On reflection it was wrong of me to have my first address to you even tinged with a hint of a belligerent tone. I was wrong. I promptly admit it.
    I so admired your having the grace to respond to my request.
    p.s. I found your site via Lolly Daskal whose LeadFromWithin community is a weekly source of energy, intelligence and substantive communication.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Wayne ~ Your comment about the learning process reminds me of the term “unconscious competence” or if you’re a golfer, “muscle memory”. To actually get there we have to concentrate on and practice new behaviour until we are no longer conscious of it. It just becomes part of us. Training ourselves to manage our emotions is a like that, I think. After a time it becomes ‘who we are’…a good thing to strive for.
      As for your “challenge”, I took it from the curiosity perspective. And, it was incentive for me to look further for myself as well. To me, that’s what learning is about.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your kind words.

  8. Pingback: Leadership & The Destructive Nature of Emotional Stupidity | digitalNow | Scoop.it

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