Emotions: Don’t Lead Without Them!

Art Sponseller, JD, PCC, Senior Executive Coach, www.artsponseller.com

When confronted with a challenging problem, what does your mind do first? Does it figure out what to do? Analyze the problem? Decide what is important and meaningful about the problem? In my experience, high-powered leaders often start with what they are going to do – they act. After all, isn’t that what leaders are supposed to do?

Emotions tell us what is important and meaningful. Brain studies reveal we cannot decide when the logic center in our brain is disconnected from the emotional center. Brain studies also reveal that while we always use emotion to decide, we do it quickly and unconsciously. Finally, brain studies also reveal that we feel emotions in our bodies long before our minds are aware of the fact. For example, sweating, tense muscles, anxiety, brain fog/freeze can be signs of accessing emotions.

Effective leaders do not act emotionally but are aware of their instinctive emotions when deciding. Leaders who do this make better decisions and are more in touch with the emotions of the people involved. 

My advice to clients is to be aware of the physical sensations of experiencing emotions and to use them as an early warning signal to name the emotion. Then to analyze what is important and meaningful to them. Perhaps they are anxious because they need more information. Or perhaps they are fearful that if they don’t have the answer, others will think poorly of them. It is better to ask questions, take time to reflect, or seek help than to make a poor decision.

 “Emotions are at the root of everything we do, the unquenchable origin of every act more complicated than reflex. In all cases, emotions are humanity’s motivator and its omnipresent guide.” — Thomas Lewis