Leadership

Why it is Important for Leaders to Show Emotions at Work

Being open about feelings and showing vulnerability helps in establishing a better connection with employees
Why it is Important for Leaders to Show Emotions at Work
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5 min read
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As we started the staff meeting, my team had no idea I would be discussing my past failures in such great detail. I spent an entire hour letting them know some of the biggest leadership mistakes I had made over the past 13 years of leading people. They appreciated the honesty. Earlier, my managers had advised me against discussing the past failures and use of emotions in the presentation. How can a tough as nails guy that was brought up to lead in the Marine Corps be this vulnerable in front of his team?

About a month prior to that meeting, in a conversation with one of my team members, I discovered what image I had among my team members. They viewed me, in his words, as “Mr. Perfect”. When I asked him what he and the team thought I did when I got home, he said, “They think you sit in a perfectly erect position with hands on your knees reading books.” This may not be a horrible way to be viewed for some, but, for me, this was not what I wanted to project. When I took over this team, one of my objectives was to get people to desire to move up into leadership roles. The team had been losing for 24 months straight prior to my arrival and had turned over a handful of leaders during that time. This made the position seem volatile and undesirable. Those who lead know that we want our people to want our jobs.

Balance it well

Recognizing the need to make myself seem more human, I had to bring more emotion into my role.  

With all of this said, I am not telling you to go cry in front of your team daily and hope that it will make them work harder. One of the keys to using emotion is to use it sparingly and in a premeditated fashion to be effective. If a leader is overly emotional or reactive with it, the team will feel like it is on a roller-coaster ride. If the leader is never emotional, they run into being “Mr. Perfect” in their team’s eyes. So how do we find balance? Let’s explore both sides of the coin for some of the common emotions that leaders face.

Anger/frustration

When we are angry and if we want to use that anger wisely with our team, we must show anger towards a situation and not towards a person. Often I show anger with all the misinformation that people are fed through marketing ploys and I urge my team to live life with integrity and not follow the suit.

It’s kind of like parenting. If a parent just yells at their children all the time, that yell loses its effectiveness after a while as they get used to it. On the other hand, if a parent does not ever show anger, their children don’t take them seriously and do not listen well.

Vulnerability

This emotion gives the leader the ability to be seen as a human. Through being vulnerable we allow our teams to understand that it’s ok to make mistakes. We show them that we have failed as well and that it’s just part of the process. In turn, it will allow them to take initiative and make decisions easier. Having said that, we must be careful to not to be overly vulnerable as our team may think of us as being.

Sadness/disappointment

If you ever had a leader that is overly positive and never shows signs of being sad or disappointed by an outcome, it just makes them seem inauthentic. We all know when our parents were upset with us; the worst thing was not the punishment, but knowing that we disappointed them. The same thing goes for employees. Do not cripple people by always telling them they did well even when they did not. When people fail to achieve their potential it is perfectly okay to voice some disappointment as long as it comes out constructively and not as a personal attack on the individual. On another hand, you cannot expect people to be perfect and hammer them on every failure; you must pick your battles with the team member and even timing when voicing disappointment with your team.

Excitement and hope

This set of emotions is what is imperative for a leader to bring a vision to life. They must be able to light up the room full of hope by showing the excitement in what is to come. However, you must apply proper level of excitement to each task at hand; if you are always super excited, that emotion will wear on the team and make them actually resent it a little as they are never able to match that constant level of excitement themselves.

No matter what the emotion is, you must remember to keep it balanced, authentic to you and the situation, and you must be proactive and not reactive with it. Don’t be a robot and go show some emotion.

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