The Impact of Emotions on Leadership

All recent surveys show that the most valuable assets of any company – your team members- want to be trusted, respected as individuals and valued for their ideas. As we all know, trust is a very personal issue. Every person is looking at different criteria when they evaluate people and decide what trust level they want to extend. The most common criteria is the evaluation of efforts we exert to build the relationship:  how we show compassion with the person, how we create hope for a better brainfuture and how we show mindfulness towards the person, his peers and team. Relationships are like desert plants. They grow by the inch and die by the foot – so to speak. The key to building strong relationships is our awareness of our feelings and the feelings of the person we try to connect to.

Analyzing our and other people’s feelings, managing our own feelings and connecting to others is a relatively new science called Emotional Intelligence. When we watch people closely over a longer period of time we can describe how people behave and how they will act in certain situations. Emotional Intelligence research, which evolved over the last 15 years, is supported by brain Magnetic Resonance Imagines which helps researchers  understand and explain how we are processing information and stimuli. In short, most stimuli are reaching our brain through the spinal cord.  Our limbic system located at the center of the brain processes the information first and assigns feeling to it. The feelings we develop are dependent on our past experiences and we use, in most cases, our paradigms to analyze and respond to the information.  Most of us are not aware at all of the feelings we develop and cannot describe them accurately. However, we show strong feelings clearly through our body language and vocals to everybody around us.

Let’s say that one of our co-workers made a mistake and we were called on it. For most people the standard reaction would be to get angry about the failure of the co-worker and the injustice they were exposed to and they will show their anger by being hostile, yelling at the co-worker or taking down to him. It might help them feel better; however, in the process they destroy some of the trust and goodwill they had previously built with the co-worker and damage their relationship with him or her. More likely than not, the co-worker will not appreciate being treated this way and will develop equally strong feelings of anger, confusion or being ashamed.  Based on our emotional reaction we have set ourselves up for a fruitless exchange because we violated the first rule of positive conflict … staying calm and discussing solutions versus assigning blame.

If we are aware of our feelings, we have a chance to interfere and stop the unfruitful exchange before it even happens. Our rational brain can assess the situation from all directions and can help us to calm down and address the situation in a calm and rational way. No matter what the response from our coworker might be, we need to find a solution to ensure that the situation cannot happen again and that our relationship with the person is better than when we started the discussion.

To be clear, calming down needs to happen within us. For some it might take a day to be able to have a discussion with the co-worker. Calming down without truly meaning it is not an option. The co-worker will see right through our words by watching our body language. Making eye contact, being animated, leaning in are all signs of openness. Angry people fold their arms, lean back and look closed.

A good way to start becoming more aware of our own feelings and avoid emotional highjacking is to start a diary. Taking a moment after a meeting and assessing how we feel, taking a moment prior to a meeting and imagining how the meeting might make us feel and how we think the other person will react. And always record it when you feel a strong emotional response. Learning about your hot buttons and how you can react productively is another benefit from this exercise.

Self-Awareness is the building block for Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Managemen;t thus we need to master it before we can work on improving in the other areas. Try it and let us know how it works.

We can support your development by providing Emotional Intelligence assessments and by developing a plan on how and in what sequence this skill can be improved.

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