I hesitated before writing this article. It is prudent for a woman to avoid being associated with emotionalism in the business world. After all, the stereotype is that women are too emotional to be successful in business and that only tough, unemotional people survive in the business environment.
Recognizing the risk, I would like to offer the perspective that leadership capacity includes a wide spectrum of emotions. Emotional capacity can be equally as important as rational thinking, even in the "business case decision-making" environment so crucial to organizational success. Trust, a collaborative environment, and a spirit that is conducive to human innovation can mobilize a company to achieve its strategic goals.
Although excessive emotion can disrupt reasoning and displace analysis, some studies suggest that too little emotion can be even more devastating to an organization. Properly recognized emotions help management. They allow people to use both the right and left sides of their brains.
Let's consider the role of emotions in the workplace today. The conventional wisdom is that displaying emotion is a sign of weakness. In other words, the businessplace is no place to show feelings. Emotions are to be avoided because they send mixed signals and confuse the audience. Emotional people are not good managers and must be treated with caution. Only rational thinking is relevant to decision-making, and using emotional words may be detrimental to one's career.
Now let's take a different viewpoint. Consider emotions instead as a way to foster high performance by touching people's hearts in addition to their heads. In many high-performing organizations, emotions are a sign of strength. They are essential in business, since business is dependent on people, and people have feelings. Feelings trigger productivity, learning, and commitment.
Emotions can be used to clarify, not confuse, the issue. Though "gut feelings" alone are an insufficient and possibly dangerous base for decision-making, ignoring intuition is usually bad business. When supported with the right analysis, good intuition can develop into a sixth sense, as any effective bond trader or bank CEO will tell you.
Today's thinking is that emotions do not always interfere with good judgment nor necessarily lead to irrational behavior. In fact, they may enhance and develop good judgment. Today, emotions are perceived to be motivators, not distractions. They are an integral part of management-the "artistic" side of business. It is particularly important that those in management ranks recognize emotions can move a whole company.
Further, displaying emotions makes management real and human to those in employee ranks. That's essential to leadership, not a sign of vulnerability.
Emotions do not necessarily obstruct reasoning or interfere with the rational process. In fact, they can clear the decks for viewing only feasible alternatives and can be used to enhance and speed up reasoning. Conventional wisdom claims that emotions inhibit control and so have no place in banking, where controls are so crucial to success.
I believe that emotions are essential to build trust and connections with all team members. Through emotional connections and clear communications, management can enhance its controls because employees who trust their bosses will seek to emulate management's decision-making process. Without such trust and a sense that management is part of the team, decision-making consistency may not be achieved.
I believe that emotions are as integral a part of management as is business reasoning. It is the balance between the two - the development of both capabilities - that makes managers effective. Much as managers need to understand the balance sheet and profitability dynamics of their companies, they need to understand the human dynamics of their organization, how to mobilize the troops by appealing to their hearts as well as their heads. Through emotions, managers can draw on values such as trust, integrity, credibility, empathy, and resilience to build a company that is founded on trusting, profitable business relationships.