|Deepak Chopra at MSPAC event (Photo credit: tobin.t)|
Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers. FINS - Wall Street Journal, stated that “The Soul of Leadership”, as one of five best business books to read for your career.
Co-author with Rudolph E. Tanzi, their latest New York Times bestseller, Super Brain: Unleashing The Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony, November 6, 2012) is a new PBS special.
In this series of posts we're discussing the qualities of leadership using the acronym L-E-A-D-E-R-S. The second letter, "E" stands for emotional bonding.
In the first post I urged that emotional bonding is important for leaders. I can see eyebrows being raised in a lot of places over this. When asked what has made Warren Buffett such a successful investor, his biographer said that Buffett makes totally rational decisions based on extensive research, while other investors, even at the top level, act emotionally.
This one remark tells us a great deal about the upside and the downside of our attitude toward emotions. There's a bias that says that decisions should be totally rational, yet such a goal is all but unachievable.
Psychologists have found that when people feel either elated or depressed, they will pay more for something than it is worth. It has also been found that emotions cannot be excluded from decision-making.
Despite the claims made about Buffett, the truth is that his investment decisions are made more rationally than other investors', not totally rationally. He can be seen in various interviews showing enthusiasm about his investment choices and optimism about the future of the American economy - those are both emotions.
Leaders who handle emotions well are superior to those who try to suppress their emotions and judge against them. This goes for how they handle the emotions around them.
In the 2008 financial meltdown, extensive reporting has shown that everyone involved - the bankers, federal regulators, and Secretary of the Treasury - were intensely emotional, and much of their mistaken decisions came down to being over-heated, over-anxious, jealous, proud, greedy, or stubborn.
With hindsight, it was exceptional that "no drama Obama," presented with fervent but opposing views among his economic advisers, made his decision with as much rationality as he did.
So as a leader, your choice comes down to handling emotions well or poorly. People who handle their emotions well share certain characteristics:
They accept their emotions; they think of emotions as positive and natural.
They balance their emotions with reason.
They give each side of their nature, the emotional and the rational, a fair hearing.
They don't make decisions in the heat of the moment if at all possible.
They know the difference between a sudden impulse and snap judgments.
They treat the emotions of others as they treat their own.
The last two points bear more explanation. Like it or not, we all treat other people's emotions as we treat our own. If we are uncomfortable showing tears, we will squirm when others show tears. If we quickly forget a burst of anger, we will quickly forgive others who lash out at us.
Emotional bonding is a positive state in which other people trust that their leader is good with emotions on both the sending and receiving end. What counts is openness, honesty, and lack of judgment.
These are attitudes you can work toward. If you haven't gotten there yet, keep trying. The whole point is to be as self-aware as possible. If you are uncomfortable with a certain emotion, don't pretend or hide your reaction.
Beneath the surface of polite behavior, we can all read each other's emotions, so it's good to be honest about it. Saying, "I'm a bit uncomfortable here, but that's my issue" can go a long way. A silent shut down in front of someone else's emotions can do considerable harm.
The other point is about knowing the difference between a sudden impulse and a snap judgment. Successful leaders are not automatons who calculate every move with precision. Often they are quite the opposite - they trust their first impressions, make snap judgments, and act intuitively. They spend less time than other people in second-guessing and self-recrimination.
The skill of "trusting your gut" isn't the same, however, as acting on impulse. The two can seem very much alike. But sudden impulses have a tone of daring and riskiness. Intuition isn't like that - it is a clam sense of knowing.
Anyone can gamble by following a string of impulsive choices for years at a time. Such people may claim to be winners, but in reality they are just good at burying their bad decisions and forgetting the misfortune they have caused to themselves and others. Don't mistake risk-taking for boldness or masculinity.
Those who handle risk the best back up their bets with rational assessment, and they know themselves well enough to sort out their emotions, relying on them when they should but questioning them when signs of trouble appear.