Emotions in Leadership
Emotions are a fundamental part of being human! We have the opportunity to reap the benefits of both the positive and negative emotions that we experience during the course of each and every day. For example, positive emotions give us the capacity to love deeply and profoundly and negative emotions, such as fear, help us avoid or overcome threatening situations. However, it's important to recognize that, as a leader, our emotions impact, influence and drive our thoughts and behaviors and can be a source of derailment. This is especially true for those leaders that are perceived as reacting to their emotions versus responding with clarity, balance, and wisdom. In other words, leaders that allow themselves to be emotionally hijacked.
Emotional hijacking occurs when the emotional brain wins over the rational brain. Basically, we feel before we think and often succumb to a default (often unflattering) reactive behavior. It can happen in a matter of seconds and leaves us wondering "How did I let that happen" or "I can't believe I reacted that way." Allowing oneself to get hijacked, even once, can have significant implications for a personal brand and potentially limits personal and organizational success. To address the impact on organizations, programs that create and support a culture of emotional intelligence are often included in leadership development initiatives.
As individuals, leaders can reduce the likelihood of getting hijacked by taking the following actions:
1. Recognize and be aware of circumstances or situations that could lead to an emotional reaction or negative feelings. For example, if a particular person or topic in a meeting provokes a visceral response, take a pause to gain focus and clarity on the real or bigger purpose of the meeting versus an immediate reaction to the person or topic. Fight the urge to resist or ignore these emotions, as not feeling and dealing with them typically results in getting even more entangled with them.
2. Create a balanced approach when addressing the situation--being neither passive or allowing your emotions to run away with you. Rather, express your emotions in a professional and effective manner that achieves a more productive outcome for all involved. In the heat of the moment, that can be as simple as taking a long, deep breath. Allow the emotion to surface and be felt, and then let it move on so you can move past it and be a valued contributor. When in a state of overwhelm, learning and other cognitive functions are reduced--or not available at all! If balance is not an immediate possibility, take a break if you can , allowing time to regain your balance and perspective.
3. Increase your understanding and wisdom. Take the information that you are gaining through experience and awareness and determine if you need to address something within yourself (self-sabotage, inner critic), with others or with a situation. When leaders train themselves to address their emotions, and what triggers them, they build future capacity for more effective responses and decisions.
Incorporating these strategies into your personal development as a leader will enhance or build the skill of emotional agility, further strengthening your ability to successfully and nimbly navigate the many challenges leaders face is this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world. Let your emotions benefit you....not derail you!
Debbie Platts is a leadership coach, small business consultant and speaker with an extensive background as a results driven former executive of a Fortune 30 company. As owner of JWP Coaching, she works with emerging and established leaders to create a journey with purpose where clients successfully navigate the challenges of modern leadership and accelerate the pace of their personal and professional effectiveness. To learn more about how Debbie can support you on your leadership journey, contact her at Debbie@jwpcoaching.com.