Leadership and Emotional Control

Leadership and Emotional ControlIf the photo to the right resembles a typical leadership meeting at your place of work then you may want to read this post.

FACT: Leaders who lack emotional control won’t remain in a position of leadership for long. There has been no shortage of information published on the topic of Emotional IQ or what’s referred to as EQ in recent years. After all, being in touch with your emotions, as well as being in tune with the emotions of others is an important trait for any leader to possess. However I believe the more important emotional trait for CEOs and entrepreneurs to gain mastery over is what I call EC or emotional control. In today’s post I’ll discuss the value of gaining control over your emotions…

Business can be tough, and the outcomes of certain events or decisions often seem far from fair…Just when you’re sailing along with the perception that all is well, you can be hit out of left field with a situation or circumstance that can bring even the most sophisticated CEO to their knees. Even if you don’t find yourself having to frequently deal with extreme situations, it is often nothing more than normal dealings in the ordinary course of business that can place you at a nexus…Do you make your decision based upon the facts at hand and sound decisioning metrics, or do you let your emotions drive your decisions?

Over the years I have observed countless examples of people who jeopardize their future to satisfy an emotional need, when what they should have done was protect their future by exhibiting control over their emotions. I have witnessed otherwise savvy executives place the need for emotional security and superiority ahead of achieving their mission (not that they always understood this at the time). Case in point…have you ever witnessed an employee throw a fit of rage and resign their position in the heat of the moment? If you have, what you really watched was a person indulging their emotions rather than protecting their future.

The message here while a basic one, is nonetheless mission critical for leaders…Keep your wits about you and never let them see you sweat. Emotional outbursts, rants, and rages will rarely do anything but cause you to make poor decisions and to lose credibility. There’s an old saying that goes: “When you lose your temper, you lose.” I believe that with a loss of your temper you can lose your credibility, your influence, and your ultimately your ability to lead. It shouldn’t go without note that perhaps more important that “what” you lose is “who” you can lose when you don’t maintain emotional control. Regardless of what might be tugging at your emotional strings, leaders need to remain calm while assessing the situation at hand. Make decisions based upon the big picture, and never based upon heat of the moment emotions.

I have only raised my voice in the workplace twice during my career and both times I have regretted it tremendously. The reality is that whether you’re right or wrong isn’t at issue when you lose emotional control because people won’t remember anything other than the fact you blew your top. Great CEOs lead by example…they set the tone for others in the organization by demonstrating proactive, rational, logical and balanced thinking as opposed reactionary emotional thinking. Resist the temptation to give way to emotional decisioning and you’ll see your career and company soar to new heights of success.

I welcome your thoughts, experiences & observations, and encourage you to leave a comment below…

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Mike MyattMike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.

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No Comments

  1. Kirk McIver on June 7, 2010 at 8:24 am

    While this might be a fight, I would suggest that there are leaders of all types who don’t remain in a position of leadership for long. Can you provide some statistics which support this statement?

    FACT: Leaders who lack emotional control won’t remain in a position of leadership for long.

  2. Kirk McIver on June 7, 2010 at 8:25 am

    …oops. I mean, “while this might be a fact”…

  3. oscar marroquin on June 7, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Jim Collins in “Good to Great” referred to this as level 5 leadership. The challenge is that leaders with poor emotional control generally intimidate, which leads to fear in providing feedback which perpetuates the behavior. There have been many leaders who have been praised for their success that had poor EC. I think some people may equate the poor EC with good leadership qualities because of the bottomline successes. I agree with you that EC is important. Poor EC may allow for short term gains; however at the expense of long term success.

  4. Vivien H. on June 7, 2010 at 9:49 am

    @Kirk McIver,

    There are no statistics Matt could provide you with that supports his sayings. However, in the realm of common sense you should find sufficient arguments to support that statement.


  5. Ryan M on June 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Great article Mike,

    I love how you succinctly summarized the need for senior managers to manage themselves first – which is a golden rule around here!

    One important consideration I’d add, as it seems to be a common misunderstanding, is that possessing emotional intelligence does not mean you close yourself off to feelings of anger or frustration. Quite the opposite, the emotionally intelligent leader honors their own feelings and emotional needs, but has the learned ability (through experience or training) to step outside their own bubble of emotion and quickly step into the other person’s to seek more information before making key decisions – without becoming hijacked by their amygdala into default emotional behaviors (we all have them) which can impact business.

    “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.” – Aristotle



  6. some Guy on June 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    What about Football Coaches, Drill Sargents and Parents?

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