Effectively Leading with Emotions

Effectively Leading With Emotions

Amber Hanna

It is becoming increasingly crucial for leaders to know how to use emotions to influence, at an individual and an organisational level. Aside from regulating their own emotions, managers often have to deal with and manage the emotional behaviour of others.

One way managers and leaders can use emotions is by becoming aware of ‘Emotional Labour’

The term emotional labour (EL) refers to the effort expended to display socially acceptable emotions as part of a job role. First introduced by Hothschild (1983) emotional labour was developed from research investigating service employees and their requirement to present socially desirable emotions when dealing with customers.

Organisational rules on what emotions should be expressed in given situations gives rise to the need for employees to regulate their emotions to be in line with these rules.
The crucial aspect of managing emotions for leaders is using their judgement wisely to display the appropriate emotion

Humphrey et al (2008) argues that EL is an important and often overlooked function of effective leadership. The term ‘leading with emotional labour’ has been put forward by Humphrey (2005, 2006) to describe managers who use emotional labour in order to influence the ‘moods, emotions, motivations and performance’ of their subordinates.

It is possible for managers to use EL as a tool for leadership. Studies have indicated that leaders have a strong influence over the moods and emotional states of their group members, thus this influence can be used to in a positive or negative way. McColl-Kennedy and Anderson (2002) found that leaders could influence employees’ feelings of frustration or optimism. By using a transformational leadership technique leaders were able to influence employees’ feelings of optimism in a positive way, these feelings of optimism were also linked to stronger performance, indicating leaders can use emotions to improve performance among team members. Pirola-Merlo et al (2002) argued that an important emotional function of leaders is to help their subordinates to cope with negative events and workplace obstacles. They found that leaders with a facilitative or transformational approach were able to help employees overcome the mood damaging effects of negative events, this reduction in mood damaging effects also contributed to improved performance. By performing the correct display of emotions in a situation, leaders can influence their followers and coworkers for the better.

By offering leadership training in how to express emotions effectively companies can encourage their management teams to experience more genuine emotional expressions. It is possible for leaders to master the skills involved in genuine emotion expression, by encouraging this an organisation can make the workplace more productive and enjoyable for leaders and their followers.

By crafting charisma through the use of positive emotional displays to portray a message with passion and sincerity a leader can foster an emotional connection with his/her followers. This raises awareness of the fact that leaders and followers are emotionally connected. Research has revealed that emotional contagion occurs between leaders and through this process leaders can influence the emotions of their followers. Positive emotional expressions have been linked with organisational outcomes such as increased performance, extra-role compliance and perceptions of leader effectiveness, indicating that emotions are a powerful tool available to leaders to increase organisational effectiveness. By being aware that emotional labour is a valid construct not only for those in the service industry but also for leaders some of the negative aspects can be reduced.