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October 19, 2013

Should leaders show emotions?

Modern world and especially workplace has remained not so formal as compared to former generations. We’re witnessing, adapting and adjusting ourselves with new ‘styles’ of leadership. We observe political, corporate and social leaders involving with sub-ordinates more and more than only discussing about serious stuff with others or their superiors.

However, core requisites for being a good, result oriented and accepted (being accepted by followers is very crucial) leader haven’t changed much since hundreds, thousands and perhaps millions of years.

A good leader should be master of its own emotional expressions.

First of all, any leader shouldn’t assume himself/herself as superhuman entity or alien being altogether. Like any other human being, a leader has emotions and ways to express them. Showing and expressing emotions verbally, nonverbally and para linguistically should be used mostly to make followers and sub-ordinates aware of true potentials they have and different areas they could improve.

Throwing speech in an upbeat and firm tone of voice is what good leader can do to motivate its followers and sub-ordinates. We see this in movies - a knight provoking its soldiers to fight with enemy when their morale is down.

Each emotion has a purpose.

Every emotion serves a unique survival and socialization purpose. Throughout million years of our evolutionary history, we've learned and got in heredity the ability and skill to express, read emotions and also control their expressions on purpose i.e. voluntarily manipulation of emotional expressions. A good leader has to have all these skills.

Although most part of emotional expression is entirely unconscious, degree and validity of every expression is entirely contextual - kind of situation, cultural & gender norms, people involved into it, necessity of own (of a leader) involvement and severity & scale of potential outcome of any emotional expression. Context has greater importance when we try to necessitate and also validate an expression of any emotion.

A leader should be motivator.
A leader should be more skilled and also quick (as compared to its followers, sub-ordinates or team members) in picking emotional clues and react to them appropriately - more specifically in constructive manner. If a leader wants to express emotions then he/she should be well aware of contextual factors (as mentioned above) before expressing any emotion.

Sometimes, not expressing emotion at the moment it induces in subconscious mind and conveying a message to sub-ordinates or team members at any other time through a different channel (verbal or nonverbal) could be wise decision. A leader has to gain the mastery in reacting appropriately and reasonably to something in the first place.

If a leader wants to restrain from expressing emotions on face, it can act upon them constructively. Facial emblems, vocal tones, postures, body positions, body movements and hand gestures can be used more effectively to convey emotional message to people.

A leader should express its emotions but should keep their expressions in check as much as possible so that they don’t create mess. Yelling, shouting, grunting and taking out frustration is not expected at workplaces or in public. Negative emotions shouldn't be expressed openly.

[This article is my comment under a question "Should a leader show emotion?" posted by Stephen Manallack (Australia), Consultant in Communication and author of "Soft Skills for a Flat World" book in a Indian Leadership Network group on LinkedIn.]

Related Articles:
1) Basic Emotional Expressions 2) Recognizing emotional expressions: Scientific viewpoints  3) Emotional Intelligence and Success

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