How to Lead with Emotion and Thrive

In our Empowering Women in Leadership Facebook Community, we ask every week, what is your No. 1 current Leadership Challenge you’d love to overcome or solve?
People will share what they want and need help with.
Recently someone posted that she wanted to be able to “Lead without Emotion”.
Ahhh, to lead without emotion and be cool, calm and collected. Grace under fire is another way of saying it.
Having been an F – the Feeler type in Myers Briggs and an emotional being for my entire life, I totally feel her pain and get her desire for wanting this.
Being the emotional type has always been one of my greatest challenges in life, both in business and in my intimate relationships and yet now older and wiser, I now also consider it one of my greatest assets and talents as a leader.
So today rather than teach you how to lead without emotion, I want to share with you how to lead with emotion.
Firstly, because it is who you are. It is a part of your innate personality and behaviour you were born with.
Can you override it? Attempt to put a lid on it?
Yes, you can, however, you’ll always be fighting against it, rather than going with it.
I have to segue a little here and be honest. I cry a lot in movies. Having recently gotten off several international flights, with two kids draped across me for almost 24 hours, there was very little sleep had.
So I watched many movies and being me, I cried in nearly all of them. Admittedly, I chose the inspirational pictures, biographies, films based on life stories and oh how I sobbed. Ended up with a headache, but you know what?
No one can tell me not to feel. No one can tell me it’s not appropriate to be human in a world filled with human beings. With a world filled with suffering, joy, laughter, sadness and many other incredible emotions. We are not here to be Emoji’s and only on one setting. We’re allowed to experience them all.
So secondly, when it comes to leading with emotion, you’re here on this planet to experience it, them, each and everyone one of them. Rather than avoid, or push away the emotions you don’t want or like or think you shouldn’t have or show, embrace them, understand them and be at peace with them.
Is there a time and place to sob your heart out, yes, and whether we like it or not, often the work environment isn’t the most ideal, it’s simple. We cannot whitewash or change that. However remember you’re human, so when you have an emotional moment or few hours, rather than give yourself or someone else a hard time about it, empathise, acknowledge and ride through the emotion.
I consider myself a fairly tough nut, despite being an emotional soul, it takes a bit to rattle me and get me going. However recently, found myself in a very awkward situation being yelled at in a not so very nice way.
I reckon even the toughest out there would have flinched at the tone, timing and content of the conversation.
However, I kept my cool at that moment.
This is the thing, it is about choosing your timing and making a choice.
Do I drop my bundle now? Or breathe and remain calm at the moment.
I did remain calm. I didn’t yell back and I didn’t cry. In the past, years ago, I would have had tears rolling down my face within seconds.
In that instant, I chose not to respond. Walking away with my head held high. Within about 1 minute or perhaps even half a minute after walking away though, my body started to shake, I couldn’t sit at the table with everyone and I had to walk away for privacy because the tears started to flow uncontrollably.
Being really shook up… it took quite some time to calm down.
And at that time, I made 3 decisions.
1.    To be honest about the situation with myself and those key people around me
2.    To remember it’s not the event or situation itself, it’s the meaning I give it
3.    Find my voice, use my voice and go back in and speak up
I went back to face the yeller and we had a conversation. Agreed to disagree.
I took my feedback further up the line of command.
I hugged myself and gave myself about 2 hours of ‘sad/messy’ time and juggled it with being honest to the kids about why I was such a mess. I believe honesty is the best policy and there is no point in hiding to people that yuk things happen either.
We’re all human. And it’s important for those around you to know, understand and appreciate that too.
Once the wheels were back on it was onward and upward. Certainly not how I imagined my day starting and another of those life lessons, where you ask, did I really have to have that one?
But yes, obviously I did.
A great reminder to embrace my emotional self and be ok with it. And obviously very recent as a reminder to share it with you!
Being an emotional being doesn’t mean you just have to suck it up, swallow it or try to keep it hidden inside. That doesn’t work at all. Whether you’re in the work environment or at home, own your tears, own your feelings, each and every one of them.
Many years ago, in a post-natal mums group, I was taught an incredible methodology called the ‘Circle of Security’.
In keeping it brief, here’s a mini-snapshot, Gen style: Picture you have those big blow up hands on… (we have some from a sporting event at home)… imagine that you have a set of hands-on either hand/arm so that your arms extend way out.
Now imagine that when you or someone on your team, a client or customer, or someone in your family is showing emotion, you need to hold the emotion, almost hug like (think virtual big bear hug) with your extended arms going out around them. Hold them tight across and around every emotion.
Often we may not be comfortable with tears, because our parents weren’t ok with our tears as kids. We may even have been told to put a lid on it. “Don’t cry”. We may not be comfortable with anger and shy from away from it, cause it’s reminiscent of childhood experiences too.
It can often be those more ‘negatively’ viewed emotions that people have difficulty with. However for some, it’s what they may not have experienced as little people, ie. someone may have trouble with showing or holding the loving space for another if they weren’t given much as a youngster. Likewise, they’ll have difficulty sharing joy, when they weren’t encouraged or allowed to show joy as a child.
So if now in your adult environment, you struggle with a particular emotion, find out which one specifically you struggle with. Acknowledge it and know, it’s now time to be ok with sharing and showing this emotion.
Here are a few more tips for the emotional females amongst us:
1)    Do keep track of your months and know those days, when you are going to be feeling things more so than the rest of the month – this absolutely has an impact!
2)    Take care to rest and recover after more emotional phases, whether it’s a quick walk around the block to recharge or some weekend TLC time.
3)    Get the sleep your body needs and be sensible with the alcohol and food intake.
4)    Practice speaking up and using your voice. Have the conversations you need to have.
5)    Be clear on your boundaries in the work environment and at home, so you do not end up being walked all over, yelled at or put down. Stand tall and be strong.
Back to those big hands, make sure you hold yourself or those around you as they share each and any of the emotions, none are either good or bad, they simply are your emotions.
So enjoy the journey, go on the ride and as you begin to celebrate each and every emotion for what it is, you’ll become more comfortable when they come and go throughout the day, week and months.
Genevieve “Being Emotional” Matthews


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