As the famous philosopher Plato once said, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge”. However, as leaders, we often believe we need to disregard those first two aspects of ourselves to be effective.
Unfortunately, when we attempt to drop emotion from our repertoire and focus solely on knowledge and logic, we lose something essential—the ability to deeply connect with our team.
Of course, as anyone who has worked for a highly emotional leader knows, there are plenty of pitfalls to displaying emotion in the workplace. A leader can be seen as unstable, irrational, or even untrustworthy when they routinely fly off the handle, cry, or even display too much joy or excitement. Your team needs to believe you’ll be able to hold it together no matter what happens, and if you come across as too emotional, you may inadvertently give off a vibe of weakness.
So what’s the answer? Is it better to rely on logic or emotion when it comes to leadership? The real answer, of course, is never as simple as most would like.
The Downfall of Too Much Logic
As referenced in this excellent article in the Fast Company, leaders in the west tend to still operate under a Protestant work ethic that tells us that emotion has no role in the workplace or in achievement.
It doesn’t help that, up until the last few decades, those in leadership roles have tended to be males who were raised to view emotion as a weakness. This causes them to often appear as aloof, disinterested, or arrogant by those who work for them.
What many don’t realize is that setting aside our emotions is not only counterproductive, but it’s also completely unrealistic. We are human—we feel emotions every second of every day. When we try to squash them down, they usually just burst out in unpredictable ways. The key to is to experience your emotions and channel them in a productive manner.
When we treat our emotions with respect, we tend to treat our employees’ emotions with respect as well. We are more likely to see them as human beings because we see our selves as human beings (instead of just leaders). We access that part of ourselves that is capable of reaching out and being vulnerable—and anyone who has read Brene Brown knows that vulnerability is the key to success—inside and outside the workplace.
Drawbacks of Too Much Emotion
Just as there are problems with leading with too much logic, there are just as many with letting your emotions run away with you. When you rely on your emotions, it can easily cloud your judgment and cause you to make irrational decisions.
For example, if you have an employee who you know is having a rough time at home and you let your empathy take over, you may allow them to continually underperform or even actively hurt your company. You’re coming from a good place, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt your business, and give a bad impression to other employees who are managing their own personal situations and still working hard for you.
Too much emotion can also lead to inflated expectations, or the opposite—a belief that everything is going to hell in a hand basket and it’s the end of the world (or at least the end of your business). Without a serious injection of logic, situations can often appear black or white—and we all know that the world is really made up of shades of grey.
Why Balance is Best
When we balance logic and emotion as leaders, we get the best of both worlds. We respect ourselves enough to feel what we feel, but then we overlay it with past knowledge and current logic to decide how we should act on our feelings.
We also show our team members that emotions are natural and that they can have a place in the office. This will encourage your employees to deal with their own emotions in a more constructive fashion, instead of denying them in an effort to secure that next promotion or keep their jobs.
Leaders are one thing above all others: human beings. What elevates us to success is the ability to take natural feelings such as fear, anger, sadness, and happiness and channel them in a way that makes us—and everyone around us—better.
Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies, Trish has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Master Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness, and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org.