“What kind of mood is the boss in today?”
In one of my first jobs coming out of college, that was the question that buzzed around the office almost every day.
The leader of our department was so emotionally volatile that, depending on his particular disposition on any given day, it would change the kinds of decisions that would be generated.
When he was in a good mood, spending was liberal, initiatives were approved and promotions were accelerated.
But when he was in a foul mood, everything changed. “No” was the watchword for just about any proposal.
While clearly an extreme case, nonetheless this leader demonstrated one of the prime pitfalls of so many leaders: Leading from the emotional extremes.
No leader is immune from the emotional extremes. All of us experience circumstances that can have us feeling dejected and upset one day, and then feeling quite cheery and positive the next.
But effective leaders learn to manage these emotional extremes, and they reserve their best, most effective decision-making when they are in their emotional “neutral ground”.
The emotional neutral ground is that mid-level bandwidth where a leader is neither overly upset, nor excessively upbeat. It is a sweet spot of leadership where critical thinking is not beset by the fuzziness that can come from unmanaged emotions.
To lead from this sweet spot, and to avoid the dangers of the emotional extremes:
Be ready at all times to self-diagnose your present emotional state
On a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 is very negative emotions, and 10 is very positive emotions, where are you at the moment?
If you’re in the emotional extremes, delay key decisions
The emotional extremes will pass. Give it a day or two before making any key decisions.
Maximize your time in your emotional mid-range
Your best decisions will always be made when you are in your emotional mid-range; when you are neither down and out, nor flying high. Trust your judgement when you at your level-best.
Emotions are real. Every leader experiences the full range of emotional ups and downs.
Just be aware that emotions can impact judgement.
And reserve your most critical leadership moments for when you are out of the emotional extremes.