Since the dawn of time, great leaders have had one thing in common: Anger. But not the kind of anger you probably thought of immediately.

martin luther king anger quote

Great leaders are angry.

Angry at the status quo.

Angry at average.

Angry at injustice and oppression.

Angry at the missing pieces.

Angry at second place.

Angry at anything that holds them back or others back.

Angry at obstacles.

What anger is and isn’t

Anger shows you care. It is not, has never been, and never will be a negative emotion. It’s a sign that something has deeply moved you. (As opposed to rage, which is the usually negative response to often misplaced anger).

Moses was angry and freed a people from slavery.

The Founding Fathers were angry and joined together to free a nation.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was angry and shared his dream with the world…a dream that is as close as ever to being fulfilled.

They saw something wrong and would stop at nothing to see it righted. That’s what leaders do.

Great leaders hate mediocrity. Average makes them sick. As Eric Thomas would say, they are allergic to average.

So the next time you feel anger at a situation in life or work, don’t push it down. You’re experiencing the first common trait of great leaders.

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Let it burn.

Let it guide you.

Let it tell you what matters.

Let it push you past the obstacles, doubters, and defeat.

Let it push you past your own limitations.

Let it destroy the barriers you put up around yourself and take you beyond anything you ever thought possible.

Let it wake you up in the morning and keep you up at night.

Let it do what it was meant to do.

And know that you are in good company.

What makes you angry?

What is wrong in the world or at your job or in the schools that makes you angry? What service has never been provided with excellence?

When you find the answer to that question, you just might have found your calling.

When you take anger and act on it in the right way, you will be a great leader. You will be a history maker.

How has anger sparked change in your life?

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10 thoughts on “The Shocking Common Trait of Great Leaders: Anger

  1. Thank you Matt! great words of encouragement today. So many look at anger as a negative not the force that drives. I needed to read this today.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Awesome Rich! It is definitely not a negative.

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    I think anger can drive a positive response or it can drive a negative response. We have a huge choice to make in how we proceed when we are angry. A leader responses constructively when they are angry.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Yep. Everyone gets angry. But what do they do with it?

  3. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    Anger and frustration with myself and my situation in life has pushed me to work harder, connect more and take steps to change my life.

  4. Very very sensitive issue as anger is a dangerous emotion. Learning to harness anger is playing with proverbial fire which is why scripture says we shouldn’t be angry. I guess correctly directed ‘anger’ is actually passion which is the underlying theme of the post. I’m trying to let it sink in. Actually using the word anger is a struggle for me. I feel like if I start letting my anger dictate my passion there’s a disconnect between my own anger and God’s purposes.

    Provoking good thoughts here Matt.

    I was once told by philosopher Tom Morris that “discontentment has two polar vices. One being greed driven by anger the other being ambition driven by passion.” That is the filter I try to use and constantly lean towards the correct vice.

  5. justindirose says:

    My favorite question to ask people is, “What makes you angry?”

    What you’re angry about reveals what you’re passionate about!

    Makes people really think about who they are without feeling pressure to perform. It’s great!

    Good post!!!!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great question to ask Justin!

  6. Mary Kathryn Johnson says:

    It fueled me to start a podcast, have a chat with you, and hopefully bring children home from day care into the loving, successful, entrepreneurial arms of their parents.
    Amazing post, Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      NICE! It’s a powerful and useful emotion.

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