leadership, Startup Advice

Seven business leaders on anger and the things they wish they could change

Emma Koehn /

Emotion can be a powerful tool in business, provided you make it work for you.

No entrepreneur or leader exists inside a vacuum, and everything from global politics to the social issues that their business want to solve can fire a company owner up and spur them into action.

Here are seven entrepreneurs and leaders talking about the things that spark their anger or they wish they could change — and what this means for their businesses.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg: People telling his story 

The Facebook co-founder has had thousands of stories written about him, but he’s still not a fan of the 2010 film The Social Network, which chronicled the creation of the billion-dollar platform.

“I think the reality is that writing code and then building a product and building a company is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about, so you can imagine that a lot of this stuff they had to embellish or make up,” Mark Zuckerberg said of the film in 2014, saying the portrayal of his character was “hurtful”.

Zuckerberg has become increasingly keen on speaking for himself in recent years, and with constant speculation of a future presidential candidacy, it’s likely we’ll be hearing him tell many more stories about his life in future.

Eventbrite chief executive Julia Hartz: Company valuations

The chief executive and co-founder of ticketing platform Eventbrite runs a business with a billion-dollar valuation, but she tells SmartCompany she takes all claims around how much a company is worth with a grain of salt.

They often turn out to be incorrect, says Julia Hartz, and the fallout makes her angry.

“Why does that make me angry? Well I just think cutting corners just doesn’t do anyone any good in terms of building a vibrant ecosystem,” she says.

“But it also creates a lot of difficulty and headwind in terms of recruiting — so the amount of times we’ve had competition in recruiting or had employees poached away only to have those companies completely crumble because there was no business model and there was no revenue attached to a great idea, but they had a tonne of capital come in from the outside … it just gets frustrating.”

12 Week Body Transformation founder Michelle Bridges: Junk food

Over the years the queen of Australian fitness has told SmartCompany she’s consistently been motivated to make a change in the diets and health of everyday consumers, and this fuels each of her new business interests.

When Michelle Bridges explained her entrepreneurial journey in an episode of Australian Story, she told press she was driven to undercut the fast food sector.

“I’d like to tackle the junk good industry the way that the tobacco industry was tackled 50-odd years ago. They sell crap food and make people sick, and that makes me angry,” she said.

“We’re now seeing children that have potentially, a shorted lifespan than their parents. I’d like to get out there and start fighting the fight for others who can’t fight it.”

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg: The role of anger and grief at work

Sheryl-Sandberg

The most recent project from Facebook’s chief operating officer focuses not on the role of anger in work, but what to do with it once it’s there.

Sheryl Sandberg’s second book, Option B, examines the relationship between workplaces and grief using the loss of her own husband as a starting point. In an interview with Business Insider, she explains how understanding anger in her personal life was part of the process, and although it continued to be present after she returned to work at Facebook, it was important to allow herself to accept that.

“Still, to this day, when I do have those ebbs and flows of grief and it comes back, there is anger to it and I’m angry that someone took Dave from me or the world took Dave from me,” she said.

Catch Group co-founder Gabby Leibovich: The excuses companies make

Gabby Leibovich

Gabby Leibovich has been watching the Australian retail landscape closely as the CatchOfTheDay co-founder oversees a relaunch of his own retail offerings to an Amazon-style marketplace format.

When SmartCompany asked him what makes him angry in the world of business, he said the way big listed companies explain their failings really has to improve.

“The first thing that comes to mind [that makes me angry] is the excuses from listed company chief executives every August or September about why their numbers aren’t so good,” he says.

Instead of acknowledging weaknesses or that companies need to pivot, Leibovich says too many excuses get rolled out, while smaller businesses simply don’t have the luxury to talk about, rather than act, on problems.

“It makes me laugh … go and fix your business and see what you can do to make it better. Try to be innovative,” he tells big businesses.

Blue Sky founder Mark Sowerby: Internal betrayals

Mark Sowerby Qld Chief Entrepreneur

Queensland’s chief entrepreneur and Blue Sky Alternative Investments founder Mark Sowerby told StartupSmart last month that business is “an emotional game”.

Some of the moments in building his business that caused the most anger and difficulty involved staff acting in ways that hurt his team in the long run.

“You’re in the trenches for a long time with people and it’s surprising what people will do for themselves at the expense of others, and those moments have been emotionally, not necessarily financially, by far the worst things,” he says.

However, the memories of these difficulties stick with the founder, who also spoke about the importance of keeping “the good ones” in the business for the long term.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai: Global politics

Google’s chief executive has not shied away from discussing the impacts of Donald Trump’s presidency.

When the Trump administration instigated a travel ban that restricted movement of permanent residents and refugees from Islamic countries, Google was at the forefront of technology companies protesting the ban. When Google employees staged a protest of the policy in January, chief executive Sundar Pichai was one of the first to speak publicly against the policy.

“It’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues,” Pichai wrote to employees.

“We’ve always made our view on immigration issues known publicly and will continue to do so.”

Together with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Pichai used the moment to reiterate that on no uncertain terms, one of the world’s most powerful tech platforms relied on the skills of those from many backgrounds.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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