Are Leaders Aware of Their Impact?

Are Leaders Aware of Their Impact? 150 150 Wally Hauck, PhD, CSP

My wife and I attend Catholic Mass each Sunday.  At Mass is an altar server.  This is a lay assistant who attends to supporting tasks at the altar such as fetching and carrying, ringing the altar bell, among other things during the liturgy.

Altar servers in our church range in age from about 7 to 18.  At an early Mass the servers are often tired and fidgety.   During readings and hymns we can find them yawning, giggling, fidgeting, and/or preening.  They are likely bored, and they look it. Their behaviors are distracting and often amusing too.  Their actions and facial expressions often send clear messages they don’t know why they are there, they don’t yet appreciate the significance of the celebration, and they are unaware of the impact they are having on the congregation.  The congregation is distracted from their most important responsibility, worship.

As people mature they become more aware of how they are influencing others.  As adults, and as leaders, if we are to positively influence others, we must be aware of the impact of our behaviors, actions, decisions, our words, and our tone of voice.  This awareness is one of the key skills of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a set of abilities that helps identify and manage emotions and influence others’ emotions and behaviors.  There are four skills that must be developed for a leader (or anyone) to be emotionally intelligent:

  • Being aware of our emotions
  • Expressing those emotions appropriately for the situation and/or to intentionally and consciously achieve an outcome
  • Recognizing emotions in others
  • Influencing others to express their emotions appropriately by using empathic understanding and appreciation

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership explains how “Emotions may spread like viruses…”  The reason “lies in the design of the human brain.” (Daniel Goleman, 2002) What a leader does and how he/she does it automatically influences others around them because the limbic brain is an open-loop system.  Our limbic brain allows us to come to each other’s emotional rescue when necessary.  For example, a crying baby is comforted by its mother.  In hospitals, the comforting presence of another can lower the blood pressure of a patient.  “Scientists describe the open loop as…one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms, and even immune function inside the body of another.” (Daniel Goleman, 2002)

The altar servers are unknowingly impacting the emotions of the congregation.  The servers are immature and a bit self-centered.  Leaders cannot afford to be immature and self-centered.  Ideally, maturity and situational awareness develop as we age, and this enables us to function more effectively by getting others to trust us and to cooperate.  Because of the open-loop system, any lack of maturity in a leader’s behaviors can damage employee attitudes. Poor attitude of a leader will transmit to others. Poor attitude leads to inferior performance and poor results

For example, this past week an employee at one of my clients shared how a comment from his CEO, during a 7-hour workshop, so disturbed him that he could not fully participate during the rest of the workshop.  Just as the altar servers were unaware, many leaders unconsciously do things and say things that create fear. Fear is created when “Managers and supervisors are…acting in threatening ways, though unconsciously…” (Kathleen D. Ryan, 1998)

As a leader, are you aware of the emotional impact your behaviors, actions, decisions, your words, and your tone of voice have on others?  Are you able to identify their emotions?  Do you have the emotional intelligent skills to be aware and influence?  Are people able to speak the truth around and to you?  Is there a high level of trust between you and your team members?  Are the relationships with managers and employees open and honest?

Emotional intelligence skills can be developed, and they are essential for consistent optimum performance.  Without these skills “the congregation” will be distracted from their most important responsibilities.

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review:

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.   Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.

Daniel Goleman, R. B. (2002). Primal Leadership: Realizing The Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Schools Press.

Kathleen D. Ryan, D. K. (1998). Driving Fear Out of the Workplace. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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