For More Employee Buy-In, Practice Emotional Leadership

If you’re an entrepreneur or executive, it’s a good bet you have the word “leader” somewhere on your resume or LinkedIn profile. But how many of you have the adjective “emotional” in front of it? More likely, you describe your leadership using words like “effective,” “organized,” or “proven.”

While the idea of being an emotional leader might not sound appealing at first, it’s often more effective than other leadership styles—if you understand why and how it works.

Gut Instinct

In business, we’re tempted to believe that the best way to make a decision or gain employee buy-in is with hard numbers, facts, and analysis. However, this isn’t always what motivates people to jump on the proverbial bandwagon.

“We are so focused on the hard skills and are often at a loss to connect with others in a way that is rooted in biology. As humans we feel first, we think second,” says author and leadership consultant Chuck Garcia writing in a recent article.

The website concurs, stating that regardless of the hard data, most humans make their decisions based on the power of gut instinct. “You can make reasoned arguments as a leader, but you have to offer more than logic. You have to learn to appeal to your employees’ emotions.”

A Combination Approach

When you’re busy running or starting a business, it can often seem easier to just present your data, issue an edict, and be done with it. That might get you obedience but not necessarily buy-in, which could undermine a project right from the start.

Garcia believes that a better approach involves asking yourself what emotion you’re trying to create in your listeners (enthusiasm, pride, fear) and then choosing the words and actions to generate that response. Weave an emotional component into the evidence or reasoning you’re presenting.

“As a leader, you’re responsible for weighing the data and choosing the best course for your employees. Getting their buy-in requires more. You have to make them feel it in their gut,” says the Skills You Need article.

Transparency Is Key

Taking the step into this kind of leadership means having a willingness to show people your true authentic self. You need to remove the “corporate mask” and let your humanity show.

One way to do this, according to Garcia, is to share some of your failures. “Revealing vulnerabilities is an effective way to strip away your mask and help people understand that you’re just like them. You’ve had challenges. You’ve tried things. You’ve failed. Nothing more emotional than that. If you can help a colleague see you as a regular Joe or Jane who faced challenges, overcame them, and found success, you increase the chances to make a personal and lasting emotional connection.”

To sum up, emotional leadership isn’t about the feelings of the person in charge. It’s about the person in charge understanding what emotions and feelings will best motivate employees—and getting those emotions to come alive through empathy and transparency.

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