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October 19, 2013

Should leaders show emotions?

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

However, the core requisites for being a good, result oriented and widely 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, assertive and firm tone of voice is what good leader can do to motivate its followers, sub-ordinates or team members. We see this in movies e. g. a knight or general giving an inspirational speech to motivate its soldiers to fight with enemy especially when their morale is down or enemy is appearing more powerful/outnumbered.

Every emotion serves a unique survival and socialization purpose. Throughout the 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.

Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream." speech

Although most part of emotional expression is entirely unconscious, degree and validity of every expression is entirely contextual i. e. kind of situation, cultural and gender norms, people involved into it, necessity of own (of a leader) involvement and severity and scale of potential outcome of any emotional expression.

Expressing an emotion at a certain amount in front of family members and friends is one thing and doing exactly the same in front of followers, sub-ordinates or team members is a different thing. Therefore, the context has greater importance when we try to necessitate and also validate an expression of any emotion.
A leader should be a 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 respond them appropriately, in a very 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 an emotion at the very moment it induces in subconscious mind and conveying a message to followers, sub-ordinates or team members at any other time through a different channel (verbal or nonverbal) could be the wisest choice. A good leader has to gain the mastery in responding appropriately and reasonably to something in the first place.

If a leader wants express useful emotions on face and body then facial emblems, vocal tones, postures, body positions, body orientations, body movements and hand gestures can be used more effectively to convey emotional message to people. Not expressing emotions at all would simply disconnect a leader from followers, sub-ordinates or team members.

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, frowning, furrowing and taking out frustration is not expected at workplaces or in public. Negative emotions shouldn't be expressed openly.

If a leader could manage its own emotions well then its overall body language and especially facial expressions would reflect the same unmistakably.

[#Special Note: This article is entirely based on my own 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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