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Lead with emotion but don’t let emotion lead you

| March 22, 2022

by Lori Green

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Lori Green, Program Leader and Leadership Coach at MOR Associates.  Lori may be reached at [email protected].]

I have asked many leadership cohorts what they thought made their boss a good boss.  The usual responses are, “they listened to me,” “they cared about my development,” “they trusted me,” “they understood when I had a family need.”  No one ever says: “they tell me what to do,” “they look over my shoulder,” or “they give me more work than I can handle.”  The theme is that they reached their people on an emotional level.  When you reach people on an emotional level, you inspire and motivate them. Our teams are the greatest asset of the organization.  When we are inspired and motivated, we become our best selves, do better work and are more willing and able to take on new challenges.  When you have connection, you see growth.


When you lead with emotion people feel cared for, inspired and motivated.

Often, I see people let their emotions cloud their judgment and behaviors.  Those emotions manifest themselves in making false assumptions, showing lack of trust, using a negative tone of voice and harsh words, being aggressive, and using overbearing behaviors. This is rooted in avoidance.  We hide what we’re feeling for various reasons:  to look strong, to avoid conflict, to avoid a tough issue, to feel in control, and even for fear of showing our true selves. These responses are the opposite of what we and others truly want.


When emotions lead you, it diminishes your control and weakens your capacity to lead.

Emotions are real – they are what they are. Emotions are not right or wrong.  Emotions stem from your beliefs and past experiences. You feel strong emotions when something is important to you, when you feel threatened, or when there are high stakes or differing expectations.  Emotions are clues to what is important to you, not something to use as basis for a response or decision making.  You own how you feel and why you feel that way.  That’s why it is important to first explore why you feel the way you do. Only then should you move to the rational part of your brain to think about what you really want and how to respond in a way that gets the best possible outcome.


You own how you feel. 

Emotional Intelligence is being aware of your emotions. When you are self-aware you can manage your emotions.  Emotional intelligence is also the awareness and understanding of the emotions of others so that relationships can be managed in a way that moves to a positive outcome and builds our social capital.  There’s a MOR maxim that applies here – “Relationships are currency.”


Here are some tips to become more aware:

  1. To be self-aware, name what you’re feeling.  The more specific the description, the easier it is to discover how to manage the feeling.  For example: “I feel mad because I was embarrassed in public.”  This could lead to having a conversation about how you felt and how to prevent that in the future.  If you didn’t like the change, then work to adapt to it.  If you are frustrated by someone not following through, then have a conversation about why that’s happening and how to make it better.
  2. To be self-aware, explore WHY you feel that way.  Own your own feelings and do not blame.  Here is the ABC Tool with instructions to help explore your emotions by asking yourself specific questions and journaling events that either trigger you or did not end well.  We can always learn from what didn’t work well.
  3. To be socially aware, seek to understand the other person’s point of view and why it is important to them.  There are always two sides to a story, and we all believe what we are saying.  Use the mantra “seek to understand before being understood” to hear what the other person has to say, why they believe it and why it is important to them.  Listening goes a long way.  When people feel heard they feel respected.  It shows empathy and caring.
  4. Suspend judgment and biases.  Go into conversations with an open mind.  Labeling good, bad, right, wrong, etc. serves no purpose and does not leave the mind clear and open to new possibilities.  Seek to understand, not evaluate.
  5. Take a time out and breathe.  High emotions don’t make for good conversations.  Take the time to cool down, take deep breaths to bring oxygen to your brain, and return to the conversation with a clear head and productive response.
  6. Have the difficult conversation.  Most of these conversations, if done well, turn out just fine.  Listen to their point of view, express your point of view and look for where you can agree.
  7. Practice grace.  Grace and kindness go a long way.  Assume good intent.  Practice kindness, courtesy, thoughtfulness.  This is what we would hope to receive from others.


We have all been through a tough few years.  We have been struggling with work/life balance, Zoom fatigue, losing staff, and many other things we have had to adapt to.  This can lead to our emotions controlling us if we don’t manage them in a productive and healing way.  Keep in mind that you have adapted in amazing ways and that you have accomplished many great things while under this stress.  Now take the time to connect with yourself and put some positive practices in place to enhance your positive emotions and manage your relationships in a positive way. 

Emotional Intelligence can be learned and developed.  The more self-aware and socially aware that you are then you will have a greater understanding and ability to manage yourself and interactions with others in a productive way.

Lead with positive emotions and a positive shift is sure to occur.



This Week’s Survey

What aspect of emotional intelligence do you find the most difficult?
(click below to provide your anonymous response)

self-awareness       other-awareness          self-control



From Last Week


Last week, we asked: How widespread is the Great Resignation among our readers? What percentage of your team has left in the past year?  About 500 of you responded:


  • 13% of us have had no turnover.
  • 38% of us have had 1-5% turnover.
  • 28% of us have had 6-10% turnover.
  • 21% of us have had more than 10% turnover.


The impacts of the Great Resignation are real, broadly and locally for so many of us.  As we think about current members of our teams as well as new hires, we need to help them fulfill their passions through developing the mastery they seek, providing the autonomy they need, and connecting them to the bigger and broader purpose of all we do.  Consider the role of emotional intelligence.



Further Reading