Think Leadership Is Logical - Think Again
Personal Business Skills Articles
Submit Articles Back to Articles
I once asked the CEO of a
technology company how his employees were dealing with a proposed
change. “We’ve presented all the facts,” he replied. “But it would be
much easier if people weren’t so emotional!”
In the business world, we are
taught to approach organizational challenges objectively and logically.
We quantify everything we can and guard against emotions that would
highjack our objectivity. But, according to neurologist and author
Antonio Damasio, the center of our conscious thought (the prefrontal
cortex) is so tightly connected to the emotion-generating amygdala,
that no one makes decisions based on pure logic – despite the belief
that we do. Brain science makes it clear that mental processes we’re
not conscious of drive our decision making, and logical reasoning is
often no more than a way to justify emotional choices.
Nowhere is this link more
evident than in leading organizational change efforts, and most leaders
are aware of the need to present change in ways that resonate both
logically and emotionally.
Fewer leaders, however, realize
how much their own emotional state influences a team’s (or an
organization’s) attitude and productivity. From “The Silent Language of
Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead,” here are
five things a leader should know about the link between emotion and
1. Emotions affect people
In a study at the University of
Tubingen in Germany, subjects were shown photos of happy or sad faces
then asked to questions to gauge their emotional reactions. People
reported corresponding emotions to the photos – even when the pictures
lasted only fractions of a second.
Likewise, those who report to
you will instantly and unconsciously pick up your emotional displays,
even if you believe you have quickly suppressed them.
2. Emotions are contagious.
A business simulation experiment
at Yale University gave two groups of people the assignment of deciding
how much of a bonus to give each employee from a set fund of money.
Each person in the group was to get as large a bonus as possible for
certain employees, while being fair to the entire employee population.
In one group, the conflicting agendas led to stress and tension, while
in the second group, everyone ended up feeling good about the result.
The difference in emotional response was created by the “plants” –
actors who had been secretly assigned to manipulate people’s feelings
about the project. In the first group, the actor was negative and
downbeat, and in the second, positive and upbeat.
The emotional tone of the
meetings followed the lead of each actor – although none of the group
members understood how or why those particular feelings had emerged.
3. Emotions flow most strongly
from the most powerful person in the room to others.
Researchers at California State
University in Long Beach found that when business leaders were in a
good mood, members of their work groups experienced more positive
emotions, were more and productive than groups whose leaders were in a
4. The brain pays more attention
to emotionally negative messages than to positive ones.
Inside the medulla is a vital
link to reticular activating system (RAS). RAS sorts the 100 million
impulses that assail the brain each second and deflects the trivial,
the vital through to alert the mind. This part of brain evolved with an
inherent tendency to magnify negative messages and minimize positive
Today, RAS still prefers to
interpret things negatively and we then react by getting defensive and
anxious. That’s why a leader’s body language (frowns, crossed arms,
lack of eye contact, etc.) can get amplified into signals of danger —
and why mixed messages (when a leader’s verbal content and body
language signals are out of alignment) may be evaluated as threatening
to our status, relationships, and even to our continued employment.
5. You can’t (successfully) hide
Stanford University’s research on emotional suppression shows why it’s
so difficult to hide our true feelings: The effort required takes a
physical and psychological toll. Subjects instructed to conceal their
emotions reported feeling ill at ease, distracted and preoccupied. And
this was validated by a steady rise in their blood pressure.
But another, quite unexpected
(and for leaders a much more important finding), showed a corresponding
blood pressure rise in those who were only listening to the subjects.
So when a leader tries to suppress what he or she really feels, the
resulting tension isn’t just personal; it is also unconsciously
To tap into the power of
emotion, savvy leaders understand how feelings (their own and other
people’s) impact and influence an organization’s ability to make
business decisions, to stay positive and productive, and to embrace
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
Follow us @Scopulus_News
Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2014-07-02 09:10:30 in Personal Articles