“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision, or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal: Great leadership works through the emotions.” This is the first sentence in the first chapter of one of my most coveted business books, Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee. It’s a book about the emotional resonance of leaders and the impact they have on the “feel” of the company, also referred to as the climate. Primal goes on to illuminate that climate itself does not determine performance, however the author’s research and analysis suggests that overall “how people feel about working at a company can account for 20 to 30 percent of business performance.” The entire point of the book is made when it asks the readers if climate drives results, what drives climate? The answer; “Roughly 50 to 70% of how employees perceive their organizations climate can be traced to the actions of one person: the leader.
Here are a couple of questions to consider that I’ve had the opportunity to ask audiences all over the world. First is, “have you ever worked for a bad boss?” And the second is, “what was it like?” The answers as you can imagine are always quite consistent. It’s starts with a resounding “yes” and then words get thrown around like “demoralizing,” “un-inspiring,” “miserable,” or even overall states of being, like “I just hated going to work.” From here the math is pretty simple, imagine if these folks in this emotional state were greeting your customers, manufacturing your products or maybe worst of all leading other people. Clearly there is a direct correlation to performance as Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee point out. And for those of us who deeply believe in the innate goodness of all people what hits me the hardest is the impact of misplaced leadership. Umair Haque gives voice to this in his book Betterness when he says, “The greatest waste in history is squandering the full richness of untapped human potential.”
So what of us, the leaders who wake up everyday with countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others? Are we acutely aware at all times of who we are, where we are and what’s going on around us? Have we consciously chosen to have a good day, be inspired thus embracing the theory that emotions are contagious (both good and bad) and people catch them like a cold?
The impetus for writing this blog was that I have personally had a challenging last few months where the stars have not been completely aligned. The opportunity for me has been to understand and accept the circumstances of both work and life while realizing I still had the full freedom and power to choose how I would show up. And transparently, my choices have not been up to par for the type of leader I want to be and the difference I want to make. Life can be a haven for victims and pessimists. There is more than enough bad news to feed our negative states of being, especially when we go looking for it. That being said, the converse is also true in that we are surrounded by so many wonderful and uplifting people, places, and things. It all comes down to what we believe, what we choose to see and how we decide to think about it. What’s at stake is our emotions and subsequent behaviors and actions. What is also at stake is, as leaders, the realization that the majority of our associates take their own emotional cues from us, and again, behave accordingly.
Primal Leadership closes the point by stating: “In short, leaders’ emotional states and actions do affect how the people they lead will feel and therefore perform. How well leaders mange their moods and effect everyone else’s moods, then, becomes not just a private matter, but a factor in how well a business will do.” My personal commitment is to do better, beginning with a higher level of awareness about my emotional resonance as a leader. I’m also very purposeful about my three personal core tenants of: what I believe, I will see; what I think, I will become; and, choosing how I show up to effect a positive impact on those around me.
How about you, what choices will you make, and subsequently what cues will you send? What do you want your associates to believe and think about when they see you? And trust me, they are watching.