When we react to our emotions without thinking about how those around us will perceive our behavior, we are engaging in instinctive behavior. We then ignore our decision opportunity and instead act instinctively based solely on our emotions.
The alternative is to think before we act — thoughtful behavior. Now we are seizing a decision opportunity. We can proactively consider the best behaviors to lead by example. The baseball manager will realize that his team needs encouragement, not discouragement, and act accordingly. The dairy farmer would have realized that his complaining was sending an entirely unintended message to his key employee.
Through thoughtful behavior, we have provided our followers with what they need from their leader. But what about the leader? Acting differently (often the opposite) of our emotions can take a toll on the leader’s emotions. This is one of the reasons I recommend that every manager and leader have a confidant.
A confidant is an individual with whom you can “let your hair down.” You can express and discuss your true emotions. You can brainstorm and discuss thoughtful behaviors. You can think through the real or root causes of your emotions and why you are feeling the way you are.
Leadership Lesson: Leaders must not deny or feel guilty about their emotions; however, their resulting behavior must be thoughtful and based on the realization that followers are watching closely.
Bob Milligan is Senior Consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC and Professor Emeritus at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-647-0495.