Emotional Leadership: The Bad News for Buttoned-Up Leaders

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In the work I do coaching leaders, many still cling to the idea that emotional expressiveness is seen in leaders as weak and ineffective.

Research into emotional and social intelligence reveals the contrary. Failure to show emotions makes leaders far less effective and not inspiring. Without recognizing and expressing our feelings, our ability to make wise decisions is impaired.

Feelings are often suppressed and go unexplored. We ignore them in our peers, employees and customers. We assume everyone feels as we do or that things are ok.

In truth, every human interaction is emotionally charged — especially at work. You can try to ignore this reality, but doing so can lead to your own peril.

Your moods, both positive and negative, are ultimately contagious. Expressing your full range of emotions may make the difference between inspiring employee commitment and perpetuating a culture of disengagement.


3 Basic Techniques

“Authentic excitement: it’s the emotion leaders tell us they want most in their people.”
– Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern, Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire (Penguin Group, USA, 2004)

Lubar and Halpern offer three guidelines for developing expressiveness that inspires others; influences change and drives business results.

  1. Generate excitement
  2. Put nonverbal cues to work
  3. Find and express a passionate purpose

Generate Excitement

Creating excitement begins with showing and expressing enthusiasm. You’ll deepen others’ bond with you by revealing your humanity and vulnerability.

Anger, frustration and pain, when properly expressed, can bring us closer to one another. Never forget, however, that expressing emotion has a powerful effect, so think before you emote. Always wield emotions with mindfulness and thoughtfulness.

Unfortunately one important caveat must be addressed: It is wise for women and members of minority groups to proceed with caution. Like it or not, these groups continue to walk a tightrope between showing emotions authenticity and playing the conformity game.

Yes, we’ve come a long way, but the road to success remains strewn with unspoken rules and hidden prejudices. If you own your emotions and feel completely comfortable with them, you will most likely be fine.

I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me or connect on LinkedIn.


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