If you’ve had a difficult week, I’m sorry. Me too. But don’t worry this isn’t (too much) of a rant about Brexit. You’ve had enough of those! This is about the importance of effective self-leadership.

For someone with a strength in Emotional Control I haven’t been controlling my emotions too well recently: I’ve spent much of the last week shouting at the radio, snarling at the TV, crying on my teenagers’ shoulders and apologising passionately to my European-born family members, clients and colleagues. I’m sad to admit that I’ve also laughed cynically at some of the ‘jokes’ on Twitter and Facebook, poking fun at some of the major figures in our particular Brexit drama.

It’d be fair to say that I’m not happy.

  • I’m appalled by the words and tone that I hear major politicians using with each other,
  • I detest the lack of responsibility that the architects of this outcome are taking and the blame they’re apportioning elsewhere,
  • I abhor the hypocrisy of politicians urging the country to ‘come together’ whilst personally demonstrating divisive and nasty behaviours.

And that last bit is especially true, isn’t it? Whatever has happened, we do need to ‘come together’, we do need to find a common strategy to move forward and we desperately need to find a leader behind whom we can find some common values and direction.

So, whilst I’ve been emoting all over the place (and been less productive than usual in the process), I’ve clung onto an old parenting adage of, ‘Hate the Behaviour, Love the Child’: the idea that we can rail against how someone expresses themselves and how they behave but that we focus our criticism on the behaviour, whilst loving the person who’s exhibiting that behaviour.

What does that mean in practice? It means It’s OK for me to:

  • feel angry when I see a white, English teenager yelling abuse at an American-born UK resident on a packed tram or Nigel Farage crowing and jeering about his success in the European Parliament and remember that hate-filled abuse generally reflects their self-hatred
  • feel furious at our current Prime Minister David Cameron for appearing to gloat over the serious difficulties that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbin, is experiencing right now and I consciously make an effort to remember that he’s a human being who lost a beloved child in 2009, surely one of the most enduringly agonising experiences anyone can experience
  • loathe how Boris Johnson has led us somewhere I don’t want to go but now doesn’t want to be the one to sort things out and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, he’s doing the best he can (I didn’t say this was easy…)
  • express my incredulity that a close family member voted Leave and remember that he genuinely believes that it’s in the best interests of everyone he loves, including the immigrant members of our family

How does this transfer to the workplace? It means that when a colleague, our boss or one of our colleagues behaves badly, we focus our feedback on their behaviour and not their personality. It means that we say, ‘I struggle with your lateness’ and not ‘you’re so lazy!’.  We hate the behaviour but love the person.

Some of my friends and colleagues have written excellent posts on the type of leadership we need now: collaborative, inclusive, mindful leadership. Hear, hear!

Such leadership starts with responsible self-leadership.

For me right now, self-leadership begins with remembering to ‘Hate the Behaviour and Love the Person’. So, David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage: I detest your behaviours right now but I’m working really hard to remember that you’re also human beings doing the best you can.


It’s helpful and it’s going to need some more work as I can’t say it feels right yet but it’s a start. Will you join me?