Great Leaders aren’t Emotional

Steve Jobs was 25 when Jay Elliot joined Apple. Back then, Steve used to say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30, except Jay.” That’s the kind of guy Jay Elliot is, he draws people to himself because he’s trustable. (Pt. 1 of my conversation with Jay)

My conversation with Jay turned to leaders and their emotions.


LF: Jay, are you an emotional leader?

JE: Very. I have very strong emotions.

LF: I’m surprised by that because, in my mind, emotion creates ups and downs, inconsistency.

JE: Ahh, I agree. I do feel very strong emotions. But successful leaders exercise strong control of their emotions.

Jay went on to explain that people in his organization see the same Jay every morning. He’s always consistent. He might have been up half the night grappling with an issue but when you see him the next day, you wouldn’t know it. “I’m a steady-Eddy person.”

LF: Steady-Eddy people seem unemotional to me, can you explain how you are an emotional leader.

JE: I’m glad to clarify.

  • I’m a passionate leader, not an emotional leader.
  • Don’t express passion toward teams or groups.
  • Always focus your passion on the product.
  • Express compassion toward people.

Jay passionately went off on an explanation of compassion versus passion.

JE: Great people are often hardest on themselves. You don’t have to beat them up. Missing deadlines bothers them more than it bothers you. Let them beat themselves up. You be the encourager.

Compassion is best expressed in
enthusiasm for what they are doing.”

Lesson learned

Jay’s explanation of passion and compassion illustrates the difference between great and average leaders. Average leaders can’t manage passion and compassion. Either they are filled with passion and run over people. Or, they are filled with compassion and people run over them. On the other hand, great leaders have emotional control, passion for products, and enthusiasm for what others are doing.

Other episodes of my interview with Jay:

Pt. 1: Plan execution: From an Apple Sr. V.P.

Pt. 3: A Sliver of Light

How can leaders balance the tension between passion and compassion?

Jay Elliot is an entrepreneur and author of, “The Steve Jobs Way: ileadership for a new Generation.”