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领导者发怒的艺术:看准时机,掌握火候

Shelley DuBois 2011年09月29日

上周早些时候,美国总统奥巴马在关于减赤的演说中,一改往日的风格,言辞激烈。作为一名领导者,选择发泄怒火的时机,有何讲究?

    奥巴马总统上任三年以来,美国经济一直增长乏力,美国民众对此很是恼火。上周,在玫瑰花园就失业问题和国家赤字问题发表的演说中,奥巴马总统似乎也难以抑制自己的怒火。

    人们发现,在此次演说中,奥巴马总统一反常态,他的语气听起来并不像往常一样冷静,反而显得咄咄逼人。《郝芬顿邮报》(The Huffington Post)简要报道了此次演讲,更是将报道的标题命名为《奥巴马终于成熟了》(Obama Finally Grows a Pair)。

    事实证明,对于领导者而言,愤怒是一种非常有用的情绪。但在公开演说这样的活动中表达自己的愤怒,却是一门“技术活”,一旦搞砸了,就会引火烧身。

    麻省理工学院斯隆商学院(MIT's Sloan School of Management)讲师维吉尼亚•海利-汤尼表示,最糟糕的情况是,演讲者改变了语气,却没有得到相应的回应。言者怒火中烧,听者无动于衷,没有比这更令人沮丧的事了。

    强硬的措辞能够起到警醒的作用。今年早些时候,诺基亚(Nokia)CEO史蒂芬•埃洛普坦言公司当前所面临的危机,成功唤回了外界对公司的关注。埃洛普称,诺基亚公司就像一个人,站在熊熊燃烧的平台上,为了自救,唯一的选择就是跳进刺骨的冰水中。

    海利•汤尼称,有时候,身处危机中的领导者需要通过传达自己的愤怒或表现得咄咄逼人,让自己看起来与听众感同身受。她想起自己之前的老板、时任道富集团(State Street)CEO的罗纳德•罗格。当时,道富集团要进行大规模裁员,罗格称由于金融危机的影响,自己也是被逼无奈。他对当时的情况愤怒不已,并且毫不掩饰自己的情绪。结果,海利•汤尼说,虽然裁员并不是好消息,但员工对罗格的话却反响很好。

    不论我们承认与否,对于愤怒的领导者,我们通常都会给予更多尊重。2001年,斯坦福大学(Stanford)组织行为学教授拉里萨•蒂登斯组织了一项研究,参与者分别观看了比尔•克林顿对莫妮卡•莱温斯基丑闻的反应。其中一组观看的是克林顿忏悔的视频,而另一组观看的视频则是这位美国前总统对此事大发雷霆。之后,研究人员要求参与者对克林顿的领导能力进行评分。结果蒂登斯发现,观看克林顿发怒视频的参与者对他的领导能力给予了更高的评价。

    当然,作为领导者,通过发怒获得听众的关注或尊重之后所要做的事,才是最重要的:用行动为自己的话提供支持。埃洛普在调整诺基亚的策略之后,需要给大家一个交代;而像罗格那样的CEO,在宣布大规模裁员之后,则要真正让公司有所好转。

    西北大学凯洛格管理学院(Northwestern's Kellogg management school)管理学教授罗伯特•利文斯顿表示:“要想获得支配地位,必然会面临隐性威胁。如果你是‘恶霸’,但人们认为你根本无力摆平他们,那你就别想从他们那里得到保护费。”

    此外,怒火保持太长时间也存在风险。海利•汤尼认为,首先,人们只能消化一定数量的负面情绪。其次,当听众在听一位带有情绪的领导者演说时,他们会把演说中的信息解读为领导者个人的信息,更多的是关于领导者的自我意识,而不是他所面对的听众。虽然激烈的话语能够引起听众的注意,但如果这被认为是以自我为中心的表现,那就得不偿失了。

    当然,奥巴马总统之所以改变演说的语气,是因为目前美国的政治局势处于一种复杂的均势之中。选举季即将来临,但奥巴马总统却一直受到国会掣肘。他的一举一动都经过精心设计,此次突然变调也不例外。美国共和党众议院全国委员会(National Republican Congressional Committee)前任主席汤姆•戴维斯认为,这次演讲只不过是奥巴马总统的一步棋而已,并且也在外界的意料之中。戴维斯表示,奥巴马会兼顾庄重的、身为总统的自我与对各种问题愤怒不已的政治家这两种身份。“作为旁观者,批评他很容易,但实际上,他也只是在‘照本宣科’。”

    奥巴马总统的“冲冠一怒”引起了人们的注意,看起来确实是一步好棋,但要想收到长期的效果,还要看他他接下来的行动。

    译者:阿龙/汪皓

    After almost three years of President Obama's leadership, the economy is still dismal and Americans are angry. In a speech on unemployment and the national debt delivered from the Rose Garden last week, the president seemed fired up too.

    The president's tone was a marked departure from his usual, cool-headed demeanor. He sounded combative, and people noticed. The Huffington Post even recapped the speech in an article entitled "Obama Finally Grows a Pair."

    Anger, it turns out, can be a very useful emotion for leaders. But expressing anger during an event such as a public speech is a tricky tactic that, when executed poorly, can cause a backlash.

    But the worst-case response to a tone change like this one is to hear crickets, says Virginia Healy-Tangney, a lecturer at MIT's Sloan School of Management. After all, there's nothing more frustrating than getting no response when you're angry.

    Strong language can function as an effective wake-up call. Earlier this year, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop got the world to pay attention to his company again by the way he framed its current crisis. Elop said Nokia (NOK) was like a person standing on a burning platform and would have to jump into icy water to save itself.

    Leaders in crisis mode sometimes have to convey anger or aggressiveness to appear relevant, says Healy-Tangney. She remembers when Ronald Logue, then-CEO of State Street, her previous employer, spoke to the company about the massive layoffs he was forced to make because of the financial crisis. He was angry about the situation, and he conveyed it. Despite hearing tough news, employees responded well to the speech, Healy-Tangney says.

    In a way, we are hard-wired to respect an angry leader, even if we don't admit it. In a 2001 study published by Stanford organizational behavior professor Larissa Tiedens, participants watched videos of Bill Clinton responding to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. One group viewed a video of a remorseful Clinton and the other saw a clip of the former president responding angrily. Then, researchers measured how the viewers rated Clinton's leadership ability. People who saw video clips of Clinton expressing anger rated him better fit to lead, Tiedens observed.

    Of course, after you get people's attention or respect with an outburst, then comes the hard part: backing up what you say. Elop needs to deliver results after shifting strategy at Nokia, and a CEO making massive layoffs like Logue needs to actually turn the company around.

    "In order to have dominance, there must be a tacit threat," says Robert Livingston, a professor of management at Northwestern's Kellogg management school. "If you're a bully and people don't think that you can beat them up, they're not going to give you the lunch money."

    And staying angry for too long has its risks. For one, people can only stomach so much negativity. Secondly, when an audience listens to an emotional leader speak, they tend to interpret the message as personal, more about the leader's ego than the people they're addressing, says Healy-Tangney. While sharp words can be an effective call for attention, perceived selfishness is a huge turn-off.

    Of course, the president's tone has changed in the context of a complicated political balance. We're coming up on election time, and he has been repeatedly stymied by congress. Every move the president makes is extremely calculated, and a tone change is no different. This recent speech was a chess move, says Tom Davis, former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and a pretty predictable one. Obama will oscillate between his stately, presidential self and a politician angered by the issues, Davis says. "It's easy to criticize him, sitting on the sidelines, but this is straight from a playbook."

    Now that people are listening, getting angry may look like a good move, but it will only pay off in the long run if he can execute.

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