The Power of Emotions in Leadership

This concludes the blog series based on the speakers from the Global Leadership Summit, 2019.  This final blog offers insights from the GLS host and opening speaker, Craig Groeschel.  A New York Times best selling author and one of the top 10 CEOs in the US of small and mid-sized companies (as the founding pastor of Life Church).  Craig’s passion for leadership in general, and specifically for improving ecclesial leadership is both contagious and challenging.

“You change minds by connecting to the heart.”  There you have the core of Groeschel’s final message.  When it’s all said and done, intellectually assenting to someone or something does not create change.  It’s when intellectual assent is combined with the heartstrings that ideas move to action.  If you want to know how leaders connect the head and the heart, read on.

  1. Leaders are masterful and purposeful storytellers.  Human beings are wired for story, but the story has to be told in such a way that the head and heart connect.  Then it’s memorable.  That takes skill, but it also takes intentionality.  We’ve all experienced a leader that begins every presentation with an attention getting story or a joke, right?  And soon we both expect and abhor it.  That’s not the same as a leader who knows exactly when to share a story to connect the head and the heart.  They know that stories stick and facts fade, so they are both intentional with their stories and skilled in telling them.
  2. Leaders choose their words deliberately.  Words determine the emotions felt.  Let me say that again.  The choice of words determines the level of feelings aroused.  Leaders seeking to connect the head and the heart choose their words deliberately.  Groeschel made the point that there are generic words of hope and then there are those of prophetic promise.  Choose carefully so that the words convey the emotion necessary to engender action.  This is one skill of great storytellers.  Need a reminder?  Listen to A Prairie Home Companion.  Garrison Keillor was a master at choosing words that went straight to the heart!
  3. Leaders show their own emotions (vulnerability is the leadership language around this) thoughtfully.  Many are impressed by strong leaders who have their personal emotions in check and who can articulate a way forward in demanding situations.  However, people connect to a leader when the leader shares weakness and vulnerability appropriate to the situation.  And people will follow a leader or support a cause if the leader is always real (engendered by sharing weakness and vulnerability), even if they are not always right.  Looking for examples of vulnerability in leadership?  Watch some of the great speeches of the 20th century.  In them you’ll see leaders appropriately revealing their emotion so that their listeners were moved to action…moved by their hearts.

Emotions drive behavior.  And yet, so often leaders sanitize their emotions and when their followers do the same, often puzzle over the lack of passion/enthusiasm for their cause.  What we are often left with is rational, organized and resourced plans devoid of any impetus to carry them out.  And if those plans ask for change, something we inherently resist, AND they are devoid of any connection to the heart, resistance increases.  Every one of you reading this has experienced just such a moment:  a well-presented plan behind which no one rallies.  People leaving the presentation ask what they should do that for?  Who thinks this is a good idea/why is this necessary?  In every one of those questions, you should hear a plea for emotion to accompany the rational.  Every time.

Looking for some help crafting good stories, choosing words to connect the head and heart, and/or determining appropriate vulnerability?  Contact us!  This is what coaching, mentoring and thought partnering can offer!


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