The “Feeling” in Leadership

By 28th July 2015Leadership

Like many people I am signed up to a number of different resources that occasionally send through something that makes me think. A while ago I received an email that did just that. Included in the email was this quote:

“All effective leaders learn to handle the internal world of feeling, particularly the big three: anger, anxiety, sadness” – David D. Goleman

Team members who seek to understand one another will likely improve their overall team effectiveness because their communication is better. And one tool that can help teams understand their members is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The MBTI helps teams because it helps individuals see the differences in their innate personalities: how they perceive the world and how they prefer to act. This is why I used MBTI throughout my leadership career because it helped with team insights and understanding and that can only enhance team working and performance.

I have a very strong preference in my MBTI type for Feeling which means I judge situations on a personal level. As a leader I could often see both sides of a situation and want harmony and support and I made decisions to create harmony by applying people centric values. At the early part of my career I often wondered if Feeling was a benefit or a hindrance to me as a leader.

But if I go back 20 years to when I worked for P&G and we used Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and then later in my career when I became intrigued by what Covey then declared as the 8th Habit. The 8th Habit (From Effectiveness to Greatness) deals with personal fulfillment and does focus on leadership as fulfillment through helping others. To be a good leader you have to be your own person and know what you believe and one of my own personal beliefs about leadership (it’s a choice not a position) comes from the early sections of the 8th Habit. It’s about finding your voice so you can inspire others to find theirs- to “live, to learn, to love, and to leave a legacy”. To me it’s about using our heart, mind, body, and spirit to lead – i.e. a whole lot of Feeling!

Most people don’t think about leadership as a feeling but to me a successful leader creates a feeling among employees of being valued, appreciated and included. When people feel valued they are more productive. Taking time to have coffee, have lunch, ask people, ‘what can I do to make your life easier?’ i.e. interacting with people to me is how you build trust.

Perhaps the key to effective leadership in relationship to Feelings is neither total suppression nor unfettered expression – its self-control. 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.

It’s easy, however, to think of self-control as only on the side of suppressing feeling. For some of us it is actually a matter of learning to manage passion and feeling. It’s possible to have such a firm hand on all expression of emotion that people-motivation is lost due to cool detachment but equally we can show too much passion and create fear around us.

As a leader I had to appreciate that people may just agree with me or not say anything to avoid my perceived anger/ wrath (I still try to classify that as passion!) without truly understanding my views or stating theirs. This does not lead to good decisions. I also had to pay particular attention to my listening skills when my feelings and passion came into play. It is important that I could show I listened to others, patiently understood and truly included their ideas in my thinking. My strong Feeling and desire for harmony could also look to shut down disagreements too quickly – when the people involved were comfortable in their exchange and reaching a good decision.

I would not want to follow a passion-less leader but nor would I want to work for someone who is emotionally unstable or out-of-control. I want someone in the middle of these extremes, someone passionate about their ideas, their work or the people they work with, and someone who is able to express the range of human emotion appropriately (see we are leaving Feeling out of it now).

So if you are on your own leadership journey – think about your Feelings and if they are doing the best for you and those around you.

9 Comments

  • Agnieszka Martin, MBA, MS says:

    Excellent point on leadership, one can build trust only if one understands what are the objectives of others and tries to incorporate their valuable input into the fabric of overall goals. It requires a lot of mental energy but otherwise one faces the resistance and lack of cooperation.

  • Dexter Chan says:

    Jacqui, Glad to hear your voice on this topic. I, for one, know how passionate you can become and the value you place on people gaining a sense of self-awareness through MBTI as much as an understanding of how to work with other MBTI types. You may be understating how hard it is ti be a feeling leader. The amount of mental energy this takes is more than many realize and it does take a toll if you don’t balance this with joy in other parts of your life. I know you tried to bring your full self every day and you did so with a smile. Much appreciated and a lesson in leadership in itself. So glad to see you blogging. Missed your insightful ponderings.

  • Louise Wood says:

    A great read Jacqui. Much rings true. Thank you

    • Jacqui says:

      Thanks Dexter – Joy has to be a driver for day to day living which incorporates work otherwise it becomes all too much! I am planning to blog every few weeks so you can continue to get some access to my ponderings.

  • Alexander Drissen says:

    How insightful and enjoyable to read this article Jacqui! Great to see you have founded the ‘Anything is possible’ company. Anything is possible indeed!

  • Kate Munro says:

    Great piece Jacqui. Really enjoyed reading it and it really resonated. Lots to think about and ‘feel’. Look forward to your next blog

  • Nisha Advani says:

    Your personal reflections are very inspiring Jacqui!

  • Christine Richardson says:

    Thanks Jacqui for providing some food for thought on my leadership journey. As someone who tends to think my way through most situations, both personal and professional, learning to listen to and value my feelings and those of others is a skill I continue to work on

  • Hua He, MD, PhD, PMP says:

    Well said Jacqui Spencer! Totally agree with you : “I would not want to follow a passion-less leader but nor would I want to work for someone who is emotionally unstable or out-of-control.” 🙂

Leave a Reply