Emotions and Effective Leadership: 13 Success Tactics

When does emotion help a leader transcend to a higher level of effectiveness, and when does it undermine credibility and stature? Now that we’re firmly planted in the second decade of the 21st century, have the rules about leaders showing emotions changed?

Whether male or female, it’s all about consistently projecting control, compassion and confidence.

Perceived loss of emotional control erodes a leader’s credibility, as does tentativeness or indecision. Similarly, a perceived lack of compassion is likely to be interpreted negatively as insensitivity. In public situations, the range of emotions expressed needs to be modulated and appropriate to the occasion.

Thirteen Tactics for Handling High-Emotion Situations Well

  1. Keep your cool.
  2. Address people’s feelings up front.
  3. Show that you care.
  4. Make your case: explain what, why, and how.
  5. Paint a picture of what success looks like.
  6. Use “we” rather than “I.”
  7. Be honest about what you know and don’t know.
  8. Focus on what can be done and what needs to be done.
  9. Set expectations about effort, attitude, and time required.
  10. State the message frequently.
  11. Provide regular updates.
  12. Publicize short-term wins and progress indicators.
  13. Don’t act defensively.

Bottom Line: Emotion can be a leader’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on whether it supports or overwhelms executive decision making and communication.  Leaders need to show that they care before they can expect people to care about what they say or know.

Copyright © Susan Battley. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.