Monday, November 18, 2013

When the Boss Loses His Cool

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First of all, it happens. Did you think it wouldn't? Bosses are human beings and sometimes they get frustrated. Sometimes it's about things that are happening inside their organization and sometimes it's about things happening in the life they lead away from their organization. But occasionally--and probably eventually--the stoic masks they wear will slip and some of the frustration that every human being feels will show through.

Okay? Fine. But, what does it mean when a boss loses his cool?

Frankly, not much. As I said, it probably means that he's frustrated. And that he's human. Maybe he's trying to do too much and maybe he needs to slow things down, but maybe not. It can sometimes be hard to tell, and there may not be much value in trying to dissect it.

Because what's more important is understanding what it doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean that he's no longer the boss. He obviously needs to own his behavior, and if he steps over the line he should apologize, but he's still the boss. And by that I mean he still has to make the decisions that bosses need to make.

It also doesn't mean he's wrong. It doesn't mean that he's right, either. The decisions bosses make are not really about being right or being wrong. They're about making the decision no one else in the organization can make, and sticking with it long enough to see if it is right or wrong.

You see, here's the thing.

Every organization does things that it already knows how to do. Decisions affecting those processes are best made by the people closest to them.

But a growing organization also tries to do things it doesn't know how to do, and decisions in that realm have to be made by someone who has the authority to commit resources, change the scope of someone's responsibilities, and resolve differences of opinion about what needs to be done.

Because there will be differences of opinion, especially when things like the allocation of resources and the scope of individual responsibilities are open questions. Someone has to make the call, and when the organization is operating out on the skinny branches, it has to be the boss that makes it. He's the one most likely to be looking out for the organization as a whole and, frankly, he's the one who's paid to take the heat if things go terribly wrong.

So in these situations, do what the boss says--even if he loses his cool when he says it.


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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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