Perspective: Effective leaders embrace their emotions

Written by
Stéphane Dubreuille, NEOMA Business School and Lara Hinton, Hinton Partners

09 Jun 2020

09 Jun 2020 • by Stéphane Dubreuille, NEOMA Business School and Lara Hinton, Hinton Partners

Being in a leadership role requires you to constantly analyse your own behaviour, as well as those around you, say Stéphane Dubreuille and Lara Hinton.

We are often confronted by the nature of our emotions in the workplace. Our emotions characterize and define who we are - they are our way of seeing how the world directly impacts our reactions. When these are too difficult to manage, some people quickly find themselves overwhelmed. This can cause emotional overload that will impact our decisions, which can of course be extremely detrimental from a professional point of view. 

Emotion plays a big part in our everyday lives, yet traditionally it has often been excluded from professional environments. We are often told that we must leave our moods and feelings at the office door and not let ourselves be overwhelmed by these irrational and unproductive thoughts. However, in recent years there has certainly been a shift in what people deem as acceptable and even encouraged regarding our emotional behaviour at work, especially from a managerial point of view. 

A better understanding of how emotions work can improve the company's performance

People now perceive emotions to be real factors in how we encourage teamwork and productivity in the workplace, and they can also be powerful resources for leaders. If you are a manager, it is essential to learn to understand your emotional state, and to identify and analyse the effects your behaviour has on your colleagues. This will allow you to make the best possible strategic decisions, whatever the conditions in which you find yourself.

Managers who show their emotions to a certain extent can be much more approachable, and can encourage their team to communicate and feel more relaxed about expressing their feelings. As well as this, leaders who embrace their emotions encourage trusting environments, where employees feel comfortable to take calculated risks, suggest ideas and to voice their opinions. In such safe environments, working collaboratively isn’t just an objective, but it gets woven into the organisational culture as whole.

Embracing change and self-awareness is key to being a resilient manager 

In order to respond to the ever-changing challenges within the workplace, a lot of people now talk about the concept of resilience, which has become a fashionable managerial concept.  Resilience is a quality that is on the rise in companies because it allows an individual to adapt and continue to progress after a difficult period of time at work. According to Boris Cirulnik, "Resilience is the ability of a body to resist pressure and return to its original structure. In psychology, resilience is the ability to live, to succeed in developing in spite of adversity". Resilience therefore consists in continuing to develop after a difficult situation, but differently. 

To develop this trait, managers must take the time to reflect on the situation and to learn from their previous reactions.  It is important that managers understand how the characteristics of a state of mind can be linked to actions that will create a sustainable business environment that grows in a healthy and permanent way.  

Learning how to practice this behaviour as a leader of course takes time and improves with experience, but as long as a leader maintains a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses, and despite their position of authority and power still operates from a mindset of humility, success will follow. Good managers know that there is a lot power in their emotions, so by learning how to identify, understand and manage them, they can also go ahead to teach those they lead how to do the same. 


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