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The Benefits of Emotional Leadership

When it comes to leadership, many CEOs utilize the information they have learned as a model of “effective leadership” handed down through generations. Often, this can make the tone of their message to their employees seem “manufactured.” However, CEOs who express and use genuine emotions are more effective leaders. 

Workers often look to leaders for examples of how to behave, especially during times of turmoil and change. Therefore, leaders are expected to present a calm, rational front. When leaders show emotional control, they are viewed as more likable, ethical, and working in the interest of the organization.

To be in control of one’s emotions means maintaining personal composure during times of stress, when things are uncertain, or when faced with conflict or disagreement. This does not mean suppressing all emotions but rather consciously choosing which emotions are appropriate in any given situation and avoiding expressing extreme or negative emotions during times of pressure. Emotional control is important during times of organizational change or when dealing with difficult employee situations. Emotional regulation has also been associated with long-term well-being. Although some leaders have the natural ability to control their emotions, others need to develop and improve this ability over time.


Sadly, women leaders battle sexist stereotypes that often label them “too emotional” for effective leadership. However, a new study reveals that women are perceived as more effective leaders than their male counterparts when they express calm, happy, and empathetic emotions. This effect is even more significant when it relates to leaders in top positions in an organization.

The first study to examine different prototypes for the emotions that leaders display was conducted by psychology professor Thomas Sy at the University of California Riverside and management professor Daan van Knippenberg at Drexel University. In the van Knippenberg study, a series of questions asked leaders to describe their emotions. The result was categorized into six emotional categories associated with leadership. The feelings of cheer, calm, and pride—were related to effective leadership, and anger, fear, and remorse—were associated with ineffective leadership.


We often hide emotions to try to stay in control, look unaffected, and keep things at a distance. In reality, this approach reduces our effectiveness and ability to lead, guide, and relate to people. It all comes down to “We should say what we mean and mean what we say.” Often, leaders do not communicate a clear message because they fear their emotions will make their message appear weak. As a result, their message doesn’t connect, compel, or build effective relationships. 

Yes, it is essential to keep emotions under control while conducting business. Uncontrolled emotions get in the way of honest analysis, hinder negotiations, and lead to rash decisions. However, in nearly 20 years of coaching leaders, I’ve found that showing too much emotion is less of a problem than showing too little emotion.

A critical element of being a good leader is displaying emotions effectively. This builds trust and strengthens relationships. A leader must set a vision and focus energy to motivate and energize people. Compromise and making difficult decisions are often necessary to achieve desired results, especially when we learn from our failures. 


Often, one of the reasons we don’t show emotions is that we don’t realize we are feeling them. As leaders, our fear of losing control makes us want to suppress our anger/frustration or excitement/happiness. In business, it has always seemed that emotional data was less relevant because logical data reigns supreme. However, emotional data can be an excellent ingredient for change and growth. 

All leaders should pay attention to their emotions and understand how they affect the business. One recommendation is to take note of your emotions daily and do it over time. Here are two guidelines that might be helpful when it comes to emotions:

• Don’t fear expressing your emotions, however small. A good way to do this is by showing gratitude. 

• On occasion, ask people how they feel, whether good or bad, and see how they release their emotions. 


Everyone expects CEOs to be more open, which includes sharing their personal stories and experiences. This authenticity fosters trust and credibility, which may potentially reduce the emotional burdens of the job. However, CEOs must balance being authentic and maintaining professional boundaries, which sometimes can be a delicate act.

Leaders who manage their emotions effectively can improve employee performance and satisfaction. The added bonus is that it also enhances your company’s culture. A good leader’s emotions are often contagious, spreading throughout the team and eventually increasing the entire group’s effectiveness. 

If you would like more information on how to become a more effective leader, visit my website www.marklewisllc.com. I offer a 10-month Virtual CEO Roundtable, which is the ultimate forum for your growth and success. Whether you’re looking to refine your processes, receive opinions on crucial decisions, or want to benefit from the wisdom of other leaders who have faced similar challenges, we’d love to have you join us!

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