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Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Lead

Leaders are human beings, not robots. Which means they experience emotions. But in many organizations, #emotions and #leadership are like oil and water. And being “emotional” can sound the death-knell for your career. And so emotions like fear, anger, disappointment, and confusion are suppressed in the name of being “professional”.

However, as the call for #authentic #leadership is becoming a clamor, leaders are realizing that suppressing emotions in not healthy for them or for the organisations they are leading. What is needed is harnessing of emotion. #Emotional #Intelligence has, therefore, become a very important criterion for determining leadership success.

So, what does it take to harness emotions to lead?

There are 2 aspects to this :

1. First harnessing your own emotion: As a leader first and foremost, you need to recognize emotion “in the moment” i.e. at the time of the stimuli. The next step is to be able to correctly name what you are feeling. Then create a pause where you choose your response instead of reacting unconsciously to the stimuli. Also as a leader, you need to ensure that you are very conscious of the emotional state you are maintaining for yourself.

2. Harnessing the emotion of others: Similarly to lead you need to recognize emotion in other people “in the moment”. Be able to name what you think that emotion is. Not get hooked and react but take a pause and then consciously adjust your behavior to handle that emotion. By the choice of your words and actions leaders can and do impact the emotional state of the people they lead. And therefore they need to be cognizant of what they are creating

I recently had the opportunity of #coaching a leader in a large MNC. They had just completed an acquisition and were in the process of integrating the people and cultures of the 2 organizations as one. As the leader planned on the first interaction with the employees of the new integrated organization he considered many facets:

Current emotional state:

  • How the employees were feeling?
  • What would this integration mean for the employees of the acquired organization? (The disorientation of seeing different signage on the facade of the building. The different home screen when they logged in their computers.)
  • What would this integration mean for the employees of the acquiring organization who in India were 1/3rd in number compared to the acquired firm? (The disorientation of the influx of many more people and a dilution of culture)

Desired emotional state: What is the emotional state he wanted his people to be in?

Factoring in Emotions: In his first address to the integrated firm:

  • Connect as a person: He started with addressing the obvious fact that he was not an Indian and reiterated that he loves India. He did this through a collage of colorful pictures of him holidaying with family in different parts of India. He wanted his team to know him beyond his designation and stellar credentials. He also wanted to ensure that his not being Indian doesn’t impact how approachable the employees perceived him as.
  • Big is beautiful: He then talked about the strength of the Integrated Organisation and how they were world leaders in digital and defense security. The aim was to evoke a feeling of pride and hope.
  • Respect unity in diversity: He then talked about how the entire team needed to respect the cultures of the 2 merging organizations and linked it to India and its unity in diversity. Here he was allaying the feeling of loss in the employees of the acquired firm at losing identity. He set the tone of what he expected people to behave like: respect both cultures. And he linked it to an example we all are very familiar with at a gut level.
  • Opportunities galore: He then talked about the opportunities that this merger created for individuals and asked them to build trust by reaching out and talking to people they didn’t know not only in India but across the globe. He shared that he was going to do so too. He focused on hope, trust, and unity.
  • We are one: He ended his speech with we are one.

You would see that as a leader leading a company after a high stakes merger he worked at harnessing the emotions of his team to lead the organization into the future.