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Daily Leadership Thought #193 – Emotional Control Is Not Optional

There is nothing more distasteful to employees than a boss who has no control over his/her emotions.  People look to their leader to lead with confidence and resoluteness not to “suffer the slings and arrows” of their emotional ups and downs.  Of course there will be adversity and disappointment – that’s part of the job (and life in general).  However, what separates great leaders from everyone else is that they actually get cooler under pressure and have an unflappable nature about them when things go wrong.

Leadership implies responsibility and to be responsible you need to act accordingly.  Children often have great difficulty controlling their emotions but then as they mature they start to get a better handle on what is the appropriate response to a given situation.  Adults who have chosen to lead others have no choice but to get a grip on themselves when things don’t go as planned or when they are having a bad day.  In addition, sometimes problems in our personal lives can’t help but impact our attitudes and behaviors at work but we have to learn to rise above these issues and get the job done.

I don’t expect leaders to be automatons who never express emotion.  Having an emotional reaction to things is a part of being human.  What we can’t allow is our emotional reactions to be disproportionate or appear like we are easily triggered in a bad way.  Always remember you are on stage and have an audience even if there is only one other person involved in the interaction.  Your employees will generally take their lead from you.  The work culture will end up closely resembling how you actually problem solve, treat people and manage conflict.  If you are anxious they will get anxious.  If you are mean spirited they will stab others in the back.  If you hold a grudge they will hold a grudge.  The list goes on and on.  Even worse is when you lose all credibility with them and become a leadership caricature behind your back.

Leaders are forged in the fires of chaos, adversity and great stress.  People just naturally want to follow them because they tend to take charge in a calm and reasonable way.  Whether they have the answers or not, they understand that the best way to make progress is to channel the organization’s energy in a positive direction and create the space where others will step up and seize the initiative when needed.  Fear and intimidation may work in the short term, but long term you will never get the best out of your employees.   The good ones will seek opportunities to leave and just about everyone else will ultimately resent you and respond in a passive-aggressive manner.

Talented leaders get the most out of other people.  They know how to inspire and motivate others effectively.  They serve as a role model on how to act and handle professional situations.  They naturally engender confidence and respect.  You can’t do this if you don’t have control of your emotions and/or people find your behavior unpredictable or erratic.


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