For certain aspects of a business, managing using emotions can be detrimental compared with a more disciplined approach. Regarding business decisions related to the overall vision, mission, and goals, relying on data, facts, logic, reasoning, and experience can be a sound way to go. Facts, metrics, and data can be illuminating as they guide strategic business decisions to align goals, objectives, and initiatives. Many employees have come to rely on and respect leaders who set the tone for the company and make decisions from a well-rounded, analytical point of view.
That said, business managers can fall into the trap of getting so busy watching the numbers that they ignore the warning cues from social awareness, resulting in increased employee disgruntlement. Or they may become so remote and distanced, that conflicts go unresolved or even unnoticed. Without incorporating emotional intelligence elements such as empathy and compassion, managers can experience unhappy employees, team conflict, and lower productivity.
In his article Good Leaders Get Emotional, Doug Sundheim writes “We hide emotions in an attempt to stay in control, look strong, and keep things at arm’s length. But in reality, doing so diminishes our control and weakens our capacity to lead — because it hamstrings us. We end up not saying what we mean or meaning what we say. We beat around the bush. And that never connects, compels, or communicates powerfully.”
On the other extreme, managers viewed as overly-emotional can set off red flags in others. Not viewed as stable, they get described with words like arbitrary, capricious, or inconsistent. They are considered unpredictable and people are uncertain about or fear what they may do next. It does not inspire confidence in that manager’s decision-making.
Leading with appropriate emotions, however, enables leaders to better connect with all levels of employees. Consciously incorporating emotions into a manager’s leadership style can provide the understanding that strengthens teams and improves productivity and morale. An emotionally intelligent leader knows how to drive a successful business while minimizing overall stress. Through motivating employees and helping them see opportunity, they navigate their way through challenges.
In the same article, Sundheim writes that “Emotions are critical to everything a leader must do: build trust, strengthen relationships, set a vision, focus energy, get people moving, make tradeoffs, make tough decisions, and learn from failure. Without genuine emotion these things always fall flat and stall.”
A person who regularly incorporates emotional intelligence is usually better able to comprehend sticky situations and resolve conflicts. Typically, they understand their team or organization and are more easily able to guide them in the right direction – turning objectives into reality. Leading using emotional intelligence encourages employees to achieve their full potential and can result in higher employee engagement and lower employee turnover.
When leading a team, acknowledge that emotions play a critical part in keeping everyone productive and cohesive. And since emotions can be both an asset and a potential liability, as a leader, you must choose the level and type of emotion that positively impacts the overall long-term health of the organization or company.
Thanks to my colleagues at Paradigm Associates for their major contribution to this article.