Leaders who instinctively lean toward Affective Leadershipsm practices recognize that their emotions and attitudes affect people around them. They sense that positive interaction brings positive results. They know that their enthusiasm or lack of it can make or break a new initiative. And, quite a bit of research supports those notions.
However, it is also important to look at how emotions affect the leader and his or her decision-making processes. In their work on Emotional Intelligence (EQ), researchers Mayer and Salovey (2000) and Daniel Goleman, who popularized EQ suggest that the first two components of EQ are self awareness and self management. Leaders who demonstrate these traits recognize their own emotions and then manage or navigate them.
Emotions predispose people to action. According to J. George 2000, emotions also affect how people think. When individuals are happy, they are more optimistic and they remember more pleasant events. They feel more in control of a situation. They tend to be more flexible and more creative than when they are unhappy or angry. They are more likely to use inductive reasoning.
This information also suggests a down side—that so-called positive emotions may cause a leader to be unrealistically optimistic about an outcome when faced with a challenge. Pleasant emotions may cause him to overlook potentially negative consequences. Frequent anger or sadness reduce productive interaction and relationships, and these emotions are not as enjoyable to experience or observe.
However, so-called unpleasant emotions may be useful for leaders. When they are gloomy, sad or angry, individuals are more pessimistic. They may see pitfalls they would have missed in a more pleasant emotional state. They may look for details and think more critically about a situation; their thinking is more deductive. They may find errors they would have missed when they were happy, joyful or enthusiastic.
Obviously, most of us prefer the more pleasant emotions, and we prefer to be around people who display them. However, it is important to see that the so-called negative emotions serve a purpose. For example, anger may force a leader to address unfair or unjust circumstances she would overlook when coming from a “happy” place. Being sad or dissatisfied may cause a leader to reevaluate what he is doing and why. Those emotions can lead to productive changes.
In light of this information, an effective leader should consider the following emotional practices:
- Be aware of the emotions he is experiencing.
- Consider those emotions in view of decisions he has to make.
- Consider decisions in terms of what he would decide in a different emotional state.
- Try to “choose” the right time for important decisions; delay important decisions when possible.
- Intentionally consider important decisions in different emotional states.
How do your emotions affect your decisions? How do they affect people around you?
This topic is covered in much greater detail in my book, Connect: Affective Leadership℠ for Effective Results.