Anger management for CEOs

"I can be anywhere between Saddam Hussein and Nelson Mandela," says LEON's John Vincent.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 05 Sep 2019

LEON is a healthy business in more ways than one. Not only is its chargrilled chicken aioli wrap just 450 calories, it also sells well. The fast-casual mediterranean food company had record sales of £95m last year as it expanded its brick and mortar footprint at home and abroad.

That’s not bad for a business operating under the exacting strain of current highstreet conditions.

Co-founder John Vincent attributes the firm’s success to a ’nourishing’ approach to employee wellbeing involving lifestyle training, metaphysical wellness retreats and acupuncture. (Although Management Today suspects the former Bain consultant is somewhat underplaying the importance of a sound business strategy and canny marketing).

But he says, caring for your staff can work only if a leader understands the real effect they have on other people in the business. In Vincent’s case, the challenge was avoiding getting too angry in stressful situations.

"It’s a leader’s job to recognise when your ego is getting in the way of relationships - especially in a founder-led business.

"We do a lot of work with the Enneagram graph, which was popularised by Riso Hudson in the 20th century, to understand the ‘shadow’ that a leader casts on the organisation. No one is perfect and everyone, especially the leader, has the tendency to bring negativity into relationships in certain circumstances. It’s when that shadow isn’t acknowledged that a leader’s impact can become toxic.

"On an Enneagram there are nine personality types.Three types are driven mostly by shame, three driven mostly by fear and three are driven mostly by anger.

"I’m an eight, which means I can be anywhere between Saddam Hussein or Nelson Mandela on the anger scale. So I would say that when I'm a good leader, I am motivating, I am inspiring and I can sell a vision. But I am at my worst when I'm stressed - I become angry and frustrated and people can feel that.

"Once you understand who you are, you can share that with your colleagues and then work on trying to remind yourself that, in my case, getting angry has never been the solution.

"For example, I noticed that I tend to get angry when people keep things from me, so I was able to explain that to people, and that if anything went wrong they should tell me and we’d sort it out.

"Understanding things like the Enneagram allows you to establish with people when your behaviour annoys them and when theirs annoys you, so you can avoid where the dragons are.

"A healthy culture isn’t one where there was no conflict. It’s where you try and avoid it, but when it does occur you have a set of skills for dealing with it."

Want to understand yourself better? Vincent recommends Eclectic Energy’s free Enneagram test two or the Enneagram Institute, where "you'll be able to see your ladder."

Image credit: Harry Borden


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