How anger and worry can make you a better leader

Emotions and business historically didn’t mix, at any level. Workers were supposed to be unthinking cogs in a machine; leaders were supposed to be unfeeling hands at the tiller. Since the 1980s, thankfully, there’s been a vast body of research in neuroscience, psychology, biology and organisational behaviour, showing that emotions are actually central to the life of business.

How we feel affects everything from our ability to assess risks and make decisions to how well we co-operate and communicate, how freely we think and how hard we work. The 21st century is surely a good time to be emotional at work.

When we think about useful emotions, of course, we tend to think of the cute, fluffy ones – happiness, enthusiasm, trust, courage, kindness and the like. But in so doing, are we overlooking the merits of their more venomous cousins – anger, anxiety, even hate?

‘Any highly intense emotion, whether it’s extreme enthusiasm, rage or hate, isn’t typically productive in work environments because it completely hijacks your system,’ says Michael Parke, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School.  ‘But the more common negative emotions – anxiety, stress, frustration, anger – are very good at signalling and prioritising problems.’

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