You Feel Things Your Team Shouldn’t Know About
Anyone with an ounce of responsibility knows “Express Yourself” is poppycock.
Leadership requires emotional control.
In praise of emotional control:
Some get apoplectic when you suggest they should control their emotions rather than express them. They say something ridiculous like, “It’s not healthy to suppress your feelings.”
You feel things your team shouldn’t know about.
You aren’t a two-year old who lets everyone know how she feels NOW. You’re a leader and leaders serve the best interest of others.
- Having a bad day? Tighten your belt. Keep it to yourself.
- Hate your team right now? Find something to love.
- Ready to blow up at someone? Say something kind. (Silence isn’t leadership.)
- Envious of another’s opportunity or success? Find something to honor.
You might say, “If you suppress your feelings, they’ll eventually come out.” Your team isn’t your therapist. Your colleagues aren’t your counselors. It’s unfair to expect them to manage your emotional health.
Yes, you need a friend, spouse, coach, mentor, counselor, or therapist that can hear your crap. But your direct reports deserve better than a boss who spews emotional baggage.
Any leader with responsibility knows self-expression can derail positive influence and hinder effectiveness.
Practice emotional control:
- Notice and reflect on your feelings. What do you really want and what’s the best way to get it?
- Delay responses. Write that nasty email, but don’t send it, ever.
- Discuss your feelings with someone outside your team.
- Get some rest. You’re never at your best when you’re exhausted.
- Eat right. Exercise. Take walks.
- Serve the best interest of others even when it’s difficult.
- Do something for someone who can’t do something for you. Generosity recharges your emotional batteries.
What happens when leaders are emotional two-year olds?
How might leaders practice emotional control?
So for this, “How might leaders practice emotional control?” My older self (not my younger self) looks at the situation and says, “Is this situation or event or dialogue really worth getting upset about?” or can I just let it go and address it in a more calmer way later. My older self (not my younger self) has found I keep my blood pressure better under control, my health better and my focus finer when I just calm down. An old supervisor back in day who was a Medic in Vietnam said one day, “Roger this is not that important, its not a matter of life or death, just let it go” He was correct, if its a matter of life or death by all means get emotional and take control. If not, calm it down and find a better way to control the situation. But again this is my older self, never would have approached it in my younger self, 30 years ago. I sign off my emails all now by saying “Have a Grateful Day” and that’s what I seek each and every day. Controlling my emotions helps me achieve that little bit or larger bit of Gratefulness regardless of what others might attempt to do to upset that balance.
I feel you, Dan! Nice job. We cannot take the emotions out of things if we really wanted to, but we can certainly be more aware of how they come into play. You keep us thinking, my man. Thanks for that.
I’ve been working on this a lot lately – thanks for the tips!
Emotional awareness is essential for a leader and one of the hardest lessons for someone to learn. Being honestly self reflective can be just as brutal as leading and working with other people’s emotions. It’s a journey well worth the trouble, though.
I agree wholeheartedly! It is very difficult to be brutally honest with yourself but it is the single most important quality for good leadership, in my opinion. Emotional awareness can lead to humility, which is essential for a good leader to demonstrate. People will follow a humble leader but will resent an arrogant one.
These are good points all.
I don’t believe that all emotions are meant for expression. To my way of thinking/feeling, the first purpose of an emotion is to inform us about our thoughts, beliefs, and preferences.
If we are feeling awful, I will estimate perhaps 95% of the time is it due to an error in our habitual thinking or self-talk, and maybe 5% of the time, we need to change something physical.
Therefore, to go off and express and take action before reading and understanding our own emotional signals and making internal adjustments is foolhardy indeed.
Best to use some of the approaches you outlined, Dan, and I would add keeping a journal with the intent of developing greater self-awareness, and tuning our thoughts and beliefs as well.
Emotional regulation is a crucial component of emotional intelligence.
Of course, we all have our triggers and will get lost from time to time, but having an “emotional strategy” that we follow, and a mindfulness practice that helps with our executive/observer mind can go a long way to minimizing emotional transgression.
Our emotional strategy and emotional wellbeing will always benefit from a great attitude towards emotion. There are no negative emotions in the sense that all of them have value in the information they bring us. Sure, some feel worse than others, but all are a form of guidance.
Best to you Dan. Thanks for your work. 🙂
What about positive emotions? As a leader with a great, capable team, I’m frequently moved and motivated by their successes, contributions, ideas, etc., and I often wonder if I over-express positive emotion. I’m a guy who cries very easily while laughing, for example. Any suggestions on keeping the positive vibes going without looking like an emotional lightweight? Or does that side of the emotional spectrum matter far less?