The Emotional Leader: A Catch-22

Like most people, I love the scenes in well-scripted movies or television shows where there is a stirring speech. A monologue that inspires characters and audiences alike is the quintessential moment in my mind – the thing that for those of us with delusions of importance, we (OK, I) hope to one day have happen.



A rallying cry to the troops, the team, or co-workers to rise above an obstacle to new heights of success.

That ‘s the rosy picture. It also a rare occurrence – almost mythical.

After all – let’s just be very honest here. There are only a few heavy-duty leaders in business today that have such power. Richard Branson and Howard Schultz come to mind. I can think of a few local leaders here in San Diego who have equal cache amongst their teams.

However, emotional leaders inevitably walk a very fine line. Leading with emotion first can rally the  troops, or wear them out – all depending upon which emotions are dominant. Daniel Goleman, author of FOCUS: The hidden driver of excellence, wrote an excellent piece last week, in what to me resonated as wake-up call to leaders and managers: Be Mindful of the Emotions You Leave Behind.

One of the big takeaways: the emotions of a leader has a huge impact on her team’s performance. If the leader is in a good mood, positively reinforcing her team and their efforts – the team is  much more efficient studies find, and more likely to achieve their goal. However, if leader tries to use negativity, or their bad mood to motivate her team, it backfires. His team is not nearly as proficient, and will usually rush through a project jMC900387127ust to please their leader in the hopes to assuage his mood.

In my career, this has happened more  times than I’d like or care to admit.

Now – let me be clear: I do believe there is room for emotions at the workplace. We are human, and to pretend that we can control our emotions all the time is just silly. That said – leaders and managers by and large must be aware how their moods can affect their teams (staff, peers, and/or supervisors). As Goleman points out, it has very real effects on a team. And if you are one that has a tendency of not even hiding  your emotions, that take steps to recognize and limit the effects it may have on your team.

A well-timed lunch away from the office, brisk walk for an afternoon cup of coffee, or an early departure for the day can do wonders for not only the team but for the  leader as well. And if your emotions are so strong that you can not control them, then any advice I could offer would only fall on deaf ears.

And deaf ears are likely what an overly emotional office manager or leader will find if those rants  become all too common.


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