Feeling Like a Leader

Ben Kenobi: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.

Luke Skywalker: You mean it controls your actions?

Ben Kenobi: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.

As the wise Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi described the Force in Star Wars, so I would describe the leader’s relationship to his/her feelings – which is the topic of #LeadershipChat on Twitter this week.

Having and displaying emotions – and passions – is not necessarily a sign of joining the Dark Side. In fact, it’s just humanity. The key to effective leadership in relationship to emotions, however, is neither total suppression nor unfettered expression – it’s self-control (I do not have issues with the “c”-word, but if you do, substitute self-management – same meaning in this context).

At the risk of sounding like the semi-stoic Yankee that I am (my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, provides the hand-waving Italian side of the equation!), I believe that it is important for any leader to have a strong filter through which “feelings” are passed before making their way out through our face, vocal cords, and actions. A red-faced, profanity-spewing, coffee mug-throwing “leader” is going to quickly find a following of cowed and fearful yes-men – or, just as likely, a place on the unemployment line.

It’s easy, however, to think of self-control as only on the side of throttling feeling. For some us (hand raised), it is actually a matter of learning to release passion and feeling. We don’t talk or think about that much, do we? It’s possible to have such a firm hand on all expression of emotion that people-motivation is lost due to cool detachment.

I still remember the heated rebuke from a boss in a factory where I worked one summer, when I pulled a stunt that I thought was funny (he seemed to have a different opinion). There was appropriate and highly motivating anger expressed. I didn’t need a clinical explanation of the undesirability of my actions. I needed a kick you-know-where, delivered with feeling. Lesson learned.

I would not want to follow a passion-less leader. Nor would I want to hitch my wagon to someone who is emotionally unstable or out-of-control. Both of those extremes raise red flags. Give me someone passionate about a worthy cause or goal, and able to express the range of human emotion appropriately (without all kinds of shrapnel-induced collateral damage from emotional excess). More accurately, give me someone growing in the practice of self-control, because we’re all in process.

Join us tonight as we discuss the Leader and Feelings – we have a special guest joining us, the @LeadershipFreak himself, Dan Rockwell! Here’s is Dan’s prep post (Control your Feelings – Don’t Express Them); and to further get your wheels turning, here is what Lisa Petrilli has written (Should Leaders Bring Feelings and Passion to Work?)

You DO want to join us for LeadershipChat at 8 pm ET. Search your feelings – you know it to be true!

And, in fact, to increase your feelings of motivation – we’ll be giving away 7 mobile device carrying cases, courtesy of the fine folks at CaseSMPL. Three are iPad/tablet size, one is thin-laptop size, and three are handheld size. High quality and versatile (I use mine regularly – see also Drew McLellan’s glowing review). If Obi-Wan or even Darth Vader were to have a mobile case for devices connected to the Force, undoubtedly this would be the choice!

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

6 Responses to Feeling Like a Leader

  1. Pingback: November Topics « Leadership Chat

  2. Dan Rockwell says:

    Hi Steve,

    I totally enjoyed reading your post. Both you and Lisa expanded my thinking on this topic.

    Bringing a concern for detachment along side self-control is important.

    First, sharing or expressing feelings is essential to connecting. Second, self-control that gives the impression of detachment blocks connections. Beautiful!

    I’m all about the self-control thing, even if I don’t always practice it. I find it way too easy to overwhelm others with my emotion and or passion.

    You could say they should adapt or get used to it…but I think its short sighted and self-centered to expect others to adapt to us while we don’t adapt to them. (that statement should stir the pot)

    Passion that inspires others is a great leadership tool. Passion that overwhelms is a liability.

    Self-awareness combined with other-awareness informs the limit, extent, and application of self-control.

    See you tonight,

    Dan

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  6. Dave says:

    Obi-Wan also said: “The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.”

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