Leadership is an oft-defined and widely studied concept. A cursory search of popular leadership quotes will produce definitions such as, “A leader is a dealer in hope” and “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Leadership books like 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and Launching a Leadership Revolution champion the leadership qualities of casting a vision, setting the pace, and raising the bar for your team. In the end, amongst the voluminous mountain of words written on the subject, we can see that leadership is quite simply the ability to attract and motivate followers. Your ability to be an effective leader is likely the greatest leverage point in your organization to create massive growth.
Wondering how to be a good leader? Of all the different leadership styles, author Daniel Goleman writes that one style attracts the most success – the resonant leadership style. In his book, Primal Leadership, he shares that a major part of the effectiveness of your team is the mood they are in. If they’re embarrassed, stressed (beyond a reasonable level), or anxious, their cognitive faculties are impaired and they can’t perform as effectively. What do you suppose a major factor is in the mood of the employee? You guessed it – their interaction with their leader.
To improve your staff’s mood, look at how you’re coming across to them. People will pick up on the mood of the leader and “catch it,” like an emotional virus. “The more open leaders are – how well they express their own enthusiasm, for example – the more readily others will feel that same contagious passion,” Goleman writes. “Leaders with that kind of talent are emotional magnets; people naturally gravitate to them. If you think about the leaders with whom people most want to work in an organization, they probably have this ability to exude upbeat feelings. It’s one reason emotionally intelligent leaders attract talented people – for the pleasure of working in their presence. Conversely, leaders who emit the negative register – who are irritable, touchy, domineering, cold – repel people. No one wants to work for a grouch.”
How does your team feel when they’re around you? If you aren’t sure, or if this is the first time you’re even considering this idea, bear in mind that demanding performance and inspiring performance are two very different things. Inspiration will usually trump demanding over the long haul. When people like their leader and feel good around them, they’re willing to go the extra mile. They’ll offer innovative suggestions, execute on new ideas, work to delight your customers, and stay late to put the finishing touches on that key report. The opposite is also true. In 2007, Gallup did a study of US employees to determine the source of organizational engagement. Their results found that poor interactions with the direct manager trumped organizational culture and led to higher turnover, spawning the phrase “people do not quit organizations, they quit bad bosses.”
Your mood comes across in many ways. When the organization is going through a change, do you lament to your staff that you’ll all have to “grin and bear it,” or do you position it as a huge opportunity to improve your business? When your team faces a deadline, do you catch yourself snapping at people in irritation, or are you the calm in the eye of the storm, offering a soothing presence? When a problem presents itself, do you roll your eyes in exasperation and complain “here we go again,” or do you challenge the team that this is their opportunity to shine and break some records? Your attitude towards daily situations and challenges will frame the situation in the minds of your team. If you’re pessimistic, seek out problems, complain bitterly about management, and are harsh in delivering feedback, you’re draining the energy from your team. You might even try to justify your behaviour, believing that it does no good to sugarcoat a situation, or arguing that people should toughen up and don’t need to be babied. But a negative mood doesn’t make people more effective; it diminishes their effectiveness.
According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, “Happiness gives us a real chemical edge on the competition. How? Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.”
The next time you interact with your staff, imagine that you have a camera filming you and your team member. Now, watch the game film in your mind and ask yourself, “How are they feeling?” Look at their facial expression, body language, and choice of words. Start noticing if they’re down. Start noticing if you’re contributing to it. Ask yourself, “What can I do to elevate the mood on this team right now?” Staff members are inspired by a leader who can see the best possible outcome, who has a can-do attitude, who notices what they do right and points it out. Bring some appropriate levity and humour to your interactions. Crack a joke and crack a smile rather than crack the whip. You’ll see that your team responds in ways that will amaze you.
CJ Calvert | Contributing Writer
CJ Calvert is a professional speaker and the author of Living an Exceptional LIFE. With over 15 years of training experience, CJ speaks on a daily basis before world-class organizations like IBM, Microsoft, Bank of Montreal, and The Co-Operators. Because of his expertise, he has been a featured guest on Breakfast Television. He makes his home in Ajax, Ontario with his amazing wife and son.