When Emotion Becomes Leadership's Biggest Enemy

by Chris Young

Recently I reread John Wooden's "Wooden On Leadership".  This is a powerful book that I highly recommend. 

Chapter 7 is titled "Emotion is your enemy".  The chapter begins with John Wooden's testimony...

"A leader who is ruled by emotions, whose temperment is mercurial, produces a team whose trademark is the roller coaster - ups and downs in performance; unpredictability and undependability in effort and concentration; one day good, the next bad."

leaderships and emotions resized 600Have you lead with excessive emotion?  

I have lead and managed with too much emotion.  Managing with too much emotion has often been extremely ineffective. 

Over the years, I have toned this down a bit, but I definitely have more to do.  I have attended workshops on how to shape my mind and the minds of others. 

Do not be mislead.  Emotions in leadership are not ineffective or harmful all together.  They become destructive when you do not control those emotions.  As John Wooden points out, you cannot be "ruled by emotions."  You must rule your emotions.

Here are 5 things that I have found to help keep emotion in control in myself and others.

  1. Model & Expect Accountability.  Do you think that talking about accountability and demanding it from employees is enough to create a culture of accountability?  Think again.  If you expect others to be accountable, you must be accountable yourself.  Often times, leaders set expectations but in the hustle and bustle, they fail to live up to these expectations themselves.  Employees lose trust, candor, effective communication, and constructive conflict when accountability is not held at all levels.  Failing to model and expect accountability ultimately leads to negative emotions.
  2. Demand Candor. Taking candid feedback can be difficult at times, but you must not let your emotion go haywire when you hear something you do not like.  If you do, employees will not feel comfortable being candid.  The result is best explained by Jack Welch, "Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they've got.  It's a killer."
  3. Do Not Let Your Emotion Alter Your Mood. While emotions are intense and triggered by a specific event, moods are not nearly as intense, are more general, and tend to persist. This is important because when an employee deceives you, it creates a negative emotion that eventually turns into a negative mood that persists for hours even days.  Ultimately, research has shown that negative moods and emotions cloud your ability to make good judgements.
  4. Gain Emotional Intelligence. The best way to control your emotions is to read about this "forgotten" piece of intelligence.  I recommend Emotionomics by Dan Hill or Executive EQ by Dr. Cooper and Ayman Sawaf.
  5. Do Not Let Your Ego Destroy Communication. For effective communication, team members need to feel emotionally connected.  If you have a big ego, it makes team members feel subordinate and creates fear.  Creating fear blocks the ability to openly dialogue and be candid.

Remember, emotion is not a bad thing, but not being able to control emotion is extremely destructive to your company's culture, morale, and bottom-line.

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