Leadership at the Movies: Inside Out
Dark emotion is stronger than bright. It’s more challenging to deal with sadness, anger, or bitterness than joy.
The way leaders deal with dark emotion determines the direction of their leadership.
Listen to the dark side:
Feelings, for the most part aren’t right or wrong. They just are. It’s what you do with them that counts.
Anger that becomes bitterness harms everyone it touches. If you equate wrong with doing harm, bitterness is wrong. (But that’s another post. This post is about sadness.)
Ignoring dark emotion hinders success.
In the movie, “Inside Out,” the main characters are the emotions of a young girl named Riley. If you watched the movie with a person who leans toward sadness, you probably elbowed them and whispered, “That’s you,” when Sadness appeared on the screen.
You may have felt a little proud of yourself, while watching, if you identified with Joy. But, there comes a point in the movie where Joy realizes Sadness plays an important role in Riley’s life.
Sadness saves the day.
Four ways sadness helps:
- Sadness sees what could go wrong. Happiness see the bright side.
- Sadness sees what is going wrong. Hope might wait too long to intervene.
- Sadness says, “Something’s not right.”
- Sadness says, “Something needs to change.”
Emotion isn’t either/or:
People feel contrasting emotion at the same time.
You might feel sad about a failure, but hopeful about what you’re learning, for example. Leaders often feel excited when things go well and worried about the next problem at the same time.
Focus matters most when you experience contrasting emotions. Use dark emotions as motivation. Don’t sink into them. Are you worried about a future failure? Create contingency plans, for example.
Note: This post is about sadness, not depression.
How are you navigating dark emotions?
What positive role do you see for dark emotion?
Dan very powerful post that reflects on business and life.
I was married and divorced when I was young. I viewed this as a huge failure, one of my first. But, to tie to an earlier post, it taught me to be more forgiving of myself and more tolerant of others.
It made me a much better person and started me to become a better leader.
Brad James, author The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. It seems the real power of failure is how we deal with it. Congratulations, even though it hurt and you would prefer to avoid it. I respect your candor.
I loved that movie for the same reasons. Sadness is way too demonized in America. Crying can be an incredible release for all kinds of things we never knew we had bottled up inside. I also believe sadness is necessary to recognize and help for moving ahead with change whether it be change happening to us or change we realize we need to enact within ourselves.
For me I’m sad about letting go of my old idealized perfectionist self and embracing my actual imperfect self. Most of society does not encourage this in any way though, so it can feel like a very lonely road.
Thanks James. I love your sadness about letting go of your old idealized perfectionist self. That’s powerful. In my journey, there have been times of mourning when I realized I wasn’t “all that.” But, the result is much better. Thanks for your transparency.
What a wonderful post Dan! Recently I was discussing that with a couple of other leaders because sometimes I’m under the impression “derailleurs” are being misunderstood and diversity of opinions are getting lost in the name of a “100% politically correct” environment.
+ Impression: “That leader had a business argument with other people”
+ Follow up action: “OMG, that’s a derailleur, let’s reprimand this individual”
+ Consequences: You lose a leader that really “tell it like it is”, you contribute to an artificial scenario where “everything is awesome” (I call “Lego Movie” business)
+ What the leader really wanted: he wanted to give his honest opinion, asking powerful questions to really take the discussion to the next level.
Food for thought: would Apple be what it is today without Steve Jobs and Woz having any argument? Would Facebook be what it is today without any argument?
I believe challenging each other in a respectful way is a crucial part of successful organizations.
You can be respectful at the same time you are “bold” on a business argument. In the end of the day, it all goes back to find the right balance…
Thanks Marcio. What a great comment. I love how you brought the topic of dark emotion to how we deal with differences of opinion/arguments. It seems that dancing around things in order to maintain a false unity isn’t very effective when it comes to innovation.
It seems like organizational culture and respectful communication are central to success in this area. Too often, we need anger (a dark emotion) to give us the courage to speak up. Sadly, anger may obscure the value someone brings. I hope I didn’t run to far afield from your comment.
Thanks for dropping in.
Yes! Respect and balance are key. Thank you!
I thought the movie was great on many levels and we all can learn a lot about ourselves if we start to learn about the things that go on inside our heads. Since I learned that emotions and thoughts are just things that go on inside my head and not something that has to rule my Iife, I have become a more Joyful person.
The hard part is being aware of when we are having those emotions and thoughts then be able to step back, see them for what they are – just thought and emotions. I am still working on my “awareness muscle” and at times I become those thoughts and emotions before I realize what is going on.
I once saw a sign in store that said, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”. I wish I would have bought that sign.
Thanks Shane. I find your comment encouraging. 🙂
I have never really understood the “don’t believe everything you think,” until just now. It makes sense.
It’s so interesting that we can observe ourselves while we are acting as ourselves. I wonder if that’s what self-awareness is all about?
I appreciate this post, “dark emotions” – sadness can grab on to even the best of us, and it can color our outlook on self, and others. Those who are sensitive to others are often sensitive to self! Because many leadership skills come with an emotional component (we say things like “I’m confident you can do this..” “… my instinct says you have greater strengths than you believe.”) The challenge, as I see it, is keeping this all constructive, sizing (am I making this too big? ..too small?) and experience (I’ve felt this pain before and I want to protect myself, especially in the case of betrayal.) So it’s important we get this right. When we feel “nobody understands” and want out, we’ve allowed sadness to take too big a bite. . A trusted friend can provide an independent perspective, perhaps by saying “let’s focus here.”
Thanks Ken. You’re being so practical and helpful. I’m a huge fan of bringing the outside in by including others on the journey.
It’s interesting that our emotions can become bigger than they need to be. It seems that we react against them or bury them when that happens. You remind me that seeing emotion for what it is, is the beginning of dealing with dark emotion.
Glad you shared your insights.
One of my favorite visuals in this charming and insightful movie is the moment that the stored memories start showing up multi-hued. I’m reminded that as a leader, we need to be attentive to the many hues around us. We’re at our best when we see, acknowledge and honor all those colors and the perspectives and experiences they represent.
Thanks Lynn. Mine too!
I also thought it was powerful when Joy started to believe in Sadness. 🙂
Thank you for joining in.
It is true that dark emotion provides us direction, lessons and learning. We learn more in dark emotions than bright emotions. I do believe that it purely depends upon our belief. When we believe that we can overcome dark phase, we build confidence and hence work harder to surpass dark phase. Similarly, when we disbelieve that we can not overcome dark phase, we tend to lose confidence and hence more likely to face what we expect beforehand. This is how our leadership capability is reflected.
Most of our beliefs is ingrained based on our experience and upbringing.However, many our believed are learned and acquired. I think, we need in inculcate hope and optimism in every dark emotion. That is the best way we can overcome even the worst phase. This attitude provides great energy, enthusiasm and resilience to our effort and outlook.
You seem to hit on issues happening around me all the time. Perhaps that’s a sign I am normal? Really good post Dan.
Great perspective on the emotional reflection and how it can lead towards a better and positive direction. Much of it is recognition and pivoting in what works best for you and/or your organization. This is where some conflict (internal & external) arise and the need for solid partners to have thoughtful conversations with.
p.s. – I’m a leadership freak newbie and enjoying it very much!
Thank you, Dan!
We cannot overestimate the importance of growing our capacity to be with all of our emotions, valuing them equally, and learning what they have to teach us. Turns out, we need this ability for ourselves before we can extend it to others. The idea of leading by example cannot be overstated! Have a great weekend!
There is definitely a learning experience that comes with strong emotions such as sadness. When I experience a failing moment, it is those strong emotions that help me to create a better plan and the best ideas that would not have been realized otherwise. Strong emotions help me to think at a deeper level because I am focused on the solution rather than the problem that created the emotion. One quote that always helps me is that from Alex Elle, “I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.”
Thank you for this post! I was able to share it to young leaders and be able to explain something I have been trying to for a long time in a way I didn’t know how to articulate!