No.233: Leaders don’t yell

Willmot's Weekly Wisdom

Remember how calmly Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert stated: “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here”? Confident, competent, effective leaders don’t need to yell. They strive to achieve their objectives without using angry emotions to signify urgency. Surgeons don’t scream at nurses for scalpels or defibrillators. Pilots don’t yell at air traffic controllers when describing technical or operational problems. And even though Hollywood has presidents and generals verbally abusing each other in the Situation Room of the White House, that hasn’t factually happened in real life.

Of course, the amateur world of media — including the major networks like ABC Australia, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and the like — do yell and scream insanely at anyone who doesn’t think like them. Social media platforms are replete with users who use language (when a difference of opinion is expressed) that would make the most hardened sailor blush with embarrassment.

The Hollywood elite, media maniacs, pompous politicians, and social media trolls are not yelling in anger because there’s so much at stake. They scream in anger because it gives their grievances airtime. Throwing tantrums gives them more exposure and attention. In organisational life, you must be more professional than that. We need rules to prevent angry tantrums because if we allow it, a toxic culture will form and before you know it you have organisational anarchy. Demand civility. Be an exemplar of professionalism like surgeons and astronauts. Rebuke poor behaviours by maintaining discipline. The success of your organisation depends on you and your people being professional leaders that are confident, competent, and effective.


“Anybody can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way —​ that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
— Aristotle.