Emotions. We want to experience them. We want to let them soar at times. They are the natural product of all we confront in life. None of us want to be dispassionate stoics, none of us want to be unfeeling or unexpressive souls.
Still, in leadership as in life, we cause ourselves trouble when we allow our emotions to rule us.
We’ve all known the emotions-dominated teacher or boss or co-worker. Every day brings a new mood, a new outlook on the world. Everyday people around this person are treated in surprising and unpleasant ways. In business matters, when this kind of person is in charge, people spend more time trying to navigate the latest emotional upheavals than working for success.
You’ve seen it many times in many arenas. The team member who is volatile and has everyone off-balance. The family member whose toxic emotions drive everyone away, poison every gathering. The leader whose unchecked emotions and raging ways weaken the firm and make everyone miserable.
So, what is the solution?
It would take volumes for me to write about out-of-control emotions in all the arenas I’ve mentioned. So let me just talk about you and your leadership. We should all press into the emotional healing we need from the wounds and hurts of our pasts. This will help keep us from stormy emotions that ruin our lives. Yet for the leader, the most direct path to checking destructive emotions is principle, maxims, unshakeable rules of conduct that help us rise above the internal forces that destroy.
Just consider this simple maxim: Wait a day before sending an angry email. I can almost see some of you rolling your eyes and saying that you sure wish you had done this in a given situation from your past. Imagine the pain that might have been saved. The relationships. Perhaps even the profits.
Then consider this maxim from the Bible: “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Now think over your life of leadership and imagine the upgrade if in some of the defining decisions of your life you had not given into emotion but had enlisted other, trusted voices in your deliberations. You might not have taken on that debt. You might not have made that hire that nearly ruined your firm. You might not have taken that role that wasn’t right for you. You know the drill. We’ve all made decisions we wish we could take back. Well, we likely made those bad decisions out of emotions that wise friends might have helped us hold in check. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
Here is the core lesson: Every leader should distill and build their leadership lives upon maxims, upon simple truths, that lead them in the path of wisdom and keep them from making emotions primary. Emotions are wonderful, but they should be byproducts of experience, not producers of experience. In other words, they shouldn’t lead us. They shouldn’t make decisions for us. They should come after we act, after we decide, after that great victory.
Decide the maxims that you need to guide your leadership. Write them down. Tell your team about them. Meditate on them from time to time. Most of all, observe them as you lead.
And, by the way, enjoy your emotions, too. Just don’t let them lead you. You won’t enjoy the ride.