The New Language of Leaders

Updated: Jul 5

"Let's not let emotions get the best of you.

Let emotions represent the best in you."

Chip Conley, author of one of my favorite books, Peak.

A client recently shared that the word ‘emotion’ brought mostly negative thoughts to mind: anger, conflict, lack-of-control Today, I want to share a secret to The Slight Edge. A secret that when you discover and lean into it, can unlock your potential. And, your greatness . Did you know that when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his ‘I have a Dream ’ speech that he hadn’t planned to share his dream? He was actually prompted near the end of his speech by a friend in the audience who yelled out: ‘share your dream’. Dr King's speech is famous for its content but equally as moving due to his innate ability to passionately express his empathy, desire, and vulnerability for the world he envisioned. Come with me on a 7-second exercise. Grab a pen and paper. Think about the best leader, boss, or teacher who has made an incredible impression on you. Perhaps this is a person you’ve worked for or a public figure you admire or your team Coach. Picture in your mind someone who through his or her actions, behaviors and performance exemplifies an exceptional leader. As you start to identify the individual characteristics – jot them down on a piece of paper. At least five characteristics. Ten would be better. Then read over the qualities and see which of them falls under one of these three categories:

  • Subject Expertise

  • Intellectual Intelligence

  • Emotional Intelligence

The winning bet is that most of the qualities of the exceptional leader you admire are emotional characteristics. This is based on research and outcomes from this exercise being given thousands of times by MHS EQ-I Assessment company, one of the top-tier organizations in leadership assessments. Emotions are NOT a sign of weakness. Emotions are a sign of strength. Emotions can represent the best in you as Chip Conley said. Emotions are what you most remember from that role model you recalled. When emotions are used to express desire, motivation and disappointment, they can produce exceptional results.  When emotions are leveraged to share stories, ideas and inspiration they create space where the magic happens, relationships are built and impact is made. Knowing and connecting with your emotions is a currency you can use to improve your relationships, deepen trust and accelerate the trajectory of your success. George Bush’s speech at Ground Zero two days after 9/11 expressed empathy, compassion, resilience, even though the underlying emotion was anger and sadness: I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon. Following the death of George Floyd, Minnesota governor Tim Waltz, gave an impassioned press briefing on the ongoing unrest in his state. He took ownership of the situation through the emotional filter of frustration, anger and empathy. He demonstrates leadership and a level of control by allowing his emotions to positivity underpin his message. Several years ago, a media brand I worked for had massive layoffs. That day, the day my boss was unceremoniously let go, he called an all-hands meeting. He quickly got to the point and ceremoniously paid tribute to his team sharing accomplishments with a deep emotional plea to carry on for the sake of the brand. If only he had shared that passion, pride and understanding of his people before his last day. Maybe things would have been different. Different for him, the brand and the people he said he cared so much about. Acknowledging and expressing emotion and feelings doesn’t give emotion and feeling power. It gives you power. This was the message Brene Brown shared in her University of Texas commencement speech. Good leaders have an understanding of their emotions and know how to use and leverage them to lead. Leaders use degrees of emotions to fuel performance in themselves and others. There is a the balance between a ‘firehose of feelings’ that can cause unnecessary drama and leading with emotion. The key is understanding how and when to express emotion in our interactions. Ask yourself: what outcome do I want when I share my passion, disappointment, frustration, anger, expectation?

Stoicism behind the podium sharing “just the facts mam'” is dusty, outdated and is simply no longer an effective leadership playbook. If we embrace emotions for a better workplace, both our work and our lives will get better. We need smarts for sure. But in today’s new world, the most successful leaders are experts who marry expertise with the right emotions to produce raving fans and bottom line results. Do you want to explore unlocking your potential and your greatness? You know where to find me. A few of my favorite things this week:

  • Mantra: Do NOT accept the invitation to give up!

  • Quote: There is no happily ever after. It’s hard work because it is hard.

  • Do you have a mindset to win? Click HERE

  • Your Secret to the Slight Edge? Click HERE

  • Want to tame fear through action? Click HERE

  • Brene Browns UT commencement address HERE


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