As a leader in your organization, you set the tone. Your mood, your energy, your clarity of direction and your long-term optimism (or lack thereof) are all contagious. People notice when there is a spring in your step or when you are knocked back on your heels. We know that, and yet we are all human and there are days — or even seasons — when we are in a bit of a funk. Maybe for good reasons, maybe . . . we just are. Sure, you can “fake it til you make it,” but lots of people will see through that, causing even more uneasiness among your team. What is a good leader to do on a bad day?
There is nothing wrong with pre-emptively telling people, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a crabby mood today. Please bear with me.” Owning your mood, rather than allowing others to assume they are responsible for it, tends to lessen its negative impact on your people as well as yourself. If possible, try to postpone interactions that are likely to be conflictual and limit interactions with people who are prone to pushing your buttons. Managing your moods, rather than allowing them to manage you, will likely shorten the duration and minimize the damage of your negative frame of mind.
Your aggravation may have nothing at all to do with the person standing in front of you, however we all tend to personalize it when someone has a negative reaction to something we have said or done. When you realize you have spoken harshly or had a less than supportive response to someone, apologize if needed and then let them know the actual source of your frustration and that it is not them (assuming it’s not). This also forces you to take the time to identify the real cause of your sour mood, which allows you to target how you respond rather than just randomly spewing negativity on everyone.
Bad moods happen. It is not a character flaw to have a (to quote Alexander) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anger, frustration, or disappointment may all be appropriate responses to particular situations. As a leader, however, you have a responsibility to respond to difficult days and situations thoughtfully, and not reactively let them ooze over everyone in your path. When you feel your mood oozing onto others (or a trusted ally points the fact out to you), stop. Take a deep breath. And ask yourself what you can do about the situation. You always have a choice. No, you may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but you can choose your own. And when you make a choice, you reframe the situation and take control of your mood rather than allowing someone else to control it for you.
Good leaders have bad days. When they happen, name it, claim it, reframe it, and move on. You always have a choice.