Skilful emotional leadership enriches work atmosphere – learn the steps

Emotions travel through the walls of the workplace, moving with us everywhere, whether we like it or not. Social interactions can produce both inspiration and discord. Success can elicit a range of reactions, like envy or joy, and even boosts the energy of the team and organisation. 

The emotional climate is also influenced by things that are not said out loud, since we also communicate emotions nonverbally through body language.

An attentive and authentic work community is psychologically safe. Feelings are taken seriously, although they are not allowed to dominate. 

Skilled managers know that emotional intelligence and emotional leadership are worth their time and attention. By investing in the emotional wellbeing of their teams, they also invest in the wellbeing of the entire workforce, improving employee commitment and psychological safety. 

Why should you invest in emotional leadership?

The emotional climate of the workplace affects an employee's motivation, commitment, learning and performance (Rantanen et al., 2020). An emotionally savvy manager or employee is able to identify, express and regulate their own emotions. The more people in the work community are capable of this, the more tolerant the general emotional climate in the workplace will be.

The same is true for managers. The more capable they are of balanced emotional leadership, the more they in turn support their team members to take into account and benefit from emotional energy. 

A skilled emotional leader reads the emotional field of their community: is there fear, shame, anger, or perhaps joy, hope and enthusiasm? They’re comfortable with even the most uncomfortable feelings.  If those are constantly ignored (critical feedback, conflicts, adversity and the emotions they generate), the community feels ignored. Such experiences accumulate and can escalate over time. 

Sharp emotional leaders dare to face these tough emotions head on. Research has also shown that emotional state has a significant impact on problem-solving ability. In one problem-solving test, 75% of good-natured employees solved a task, and in a neutral state, only 13%. Good mood improves performance. (Rantanen et al., 2020) Promptly addressing emotional discomfort stabilises feelings and enables clear thinking.

Studies have found that emotionally intelligent leaders are more successful both in their careers and in their social relationships. Investing in emotionally intelligent leadership starts with yourself and expands into the organisation. The investment multiplies for the organisation in terms of motivated employees, productivity, brand value and growth results.

Steps to good emotional leadership 

  • Be aware of the impact of emotions in working life 

Awareness is always the starting point. We cannot make a difference if we don’t know what the challenge is. It is therefore necessary to be aware of where and how emotions circulate in the organisation. 

  • Understand the forces behind emotions

Why do individuals behave the way they do, what do they tell us, what do they give feedback on? What makes them act and feel the way they do?

  • Identify, awaken and reinforce positive emotions

Look for everyday ways to reinforce positive experiences, such as verbal encouragement and public praise. How does it feel to receive praise and encouragement yourself?

  • Face and deal with the challenging emotions

What are your skills in addressing grievances and putting unwanted things into words? Are you used to sweeping them under the rug and hoping that they will be forgotten? Challenge yourself to lift the rug and face even unpleasant emotions. If necessary, get work supervision or sparring to face challenges.

  • Apply what you’ve learned in challenging workplace situations

Drive your own strengthened ability to face challenges for the benefit of the community. Take note of the outcomes. You learn and grow from every challenge, both you as an emotional leader and the work community.

  • Manage the emotional climate of the team and the organisation

Apply emotional skills management to your own organisation. Skilful emotional management creates a successful, safe and high-performance work culture and emotional climate. 

(Applied from: Lead the Emotional Climate, 2020)

What could be your next move in emotional leadership?

Start with an emotional check-in: 

  • How am I feeling right now?

  • How does that other person feel right now?

  • What feelings does this message/thing/goal/process/strategy evoke?

  • What emotions are present in this situation?

(Lead the Emotional Climate, 2020)

The alphabet of emotional leadership can be learned in theory, but it becomes true only when put into practice.  You influence the emotional climate of your workplace by making the processing of emotions part of routines.  To achieve a supportive and psychologically safe workplace demands repetition, experimentation, mistakes, re-exposure and daring. 

Rantanen, J. & Leppänen, I. & Kankaanpää, H.: Johda tunneilmastoa – vapauta työyhteisösi todellinen potentiaali. Alma Talent, 2020. (Lead the emotional climate – unleash the true potential of your work community)

More on this topic: 

Cooper, R. K. 1997. Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace. Training and Development. Vol. 51(12), 31–38.

Grandey, A. 2000. Emotion regulation in the workplace: a new way to conceptualize emotional labor. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol. 5(1), 95–110. 

Grandey, A. & Gabriel, A. 2015. Emotional labour at a crossroads: Where do we go from here? The Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behaviour.

Psychology today - the ROI of emotional intelligence at work -blog


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