Leading with Emotion

I “grew up” working in a very large organization which, for the most part, was notorious for its, um, conservative culture.  In my early experience, this meant that emotions, when expressed at work, were largely met with disapproval.  There were a couple of exceptions of course.  Anger was one.  And the other was fear.  Together these two sentiments, along with their not-so-distant cousins, irritation, exasperation, disgust, nervousness and envy formed a large part of my early working environment along with apathy, the place of neutrality where it was relatively safe but not very inspired.

I think we have learned a lot since those early days.  Thank goodness.  More and more we are encouraged to bring our whole selves to work with us.  More and more, leaders are seeing the benefits of doing the encouraging.

I’m wondering though to what extent business organizations are taking this concept of giving other emotions, like love, joy and surprise greater space and actively incorporating them into their everyday culture.  I know there are some. Zappos.com comes to mind for one. But, I ‘m thinking there are more that still squirm when considering the notion of bringing these perceived softer, and potentially messier, sides of humanity to work and giving them pride of place.

So, I tried to find somewhere where leading with emotion has worked a kind of magic that can, potentially be translated into any organization no matter the focus or the product.

I came up with Celine Dion.  Okay, I’m imagining some eyes rolling in an upward direction here.  Celine Dion is not everyone’s cup of tea.  She is often portrayed and perceived as overly dramatic, too effusive and excessively ostentatious. But hey, who better to study when considering the impact that overt emotion can have on organizations than someone who does it in a big way?

Ms Dion and her husband Rene Angelil operate their own company. M. Angelil is President and Manager of (wait for it) Feeling Productions. In 1999 they entered into a partnership with Cirque du Soleil to produce the Las Vegas Show, A New Day. At $300 million, it was reportedly the biggest contract ever negotiated in the history of the music business.  And they did it practically on a handshake.

Here is the beginning of the story of how A New Day came about.  Although it may be tempting, I urge you not to skip watching it because there are clues in here about the power leading with emotion can have on a company of diverse people with diverse interests. Pay particular attention to Celine as she meets the show’s dancers for the first time.  Listen to what the dancers are saying about her and the show. What emotions are at play?

Here is what I am learning from this:

I don’t have to be perfect to be inspiring

In fact I expect that the opposite might be true. Imperfections especially, if I am self-deprecating about them, have a way of making me more human and perhaps more forgivable.

I do have to acknowledge the value that others bring and…tell them…often.

What is more encouraging than having someone say something like, “You changed a bit of my life today”? To me, that’s pretty powerful.

One small gesture of appreciation can lead to very big things.

Celine’s back stage gesture to the cast of Cirque du Soleil triggered a set of events that otherwise might not have happened.  Genuine enthusiasm, admiration and pride for the work of others are powerful motivators.

As a leader, my positive emotions can be even more infectious than my negative ones.

I just have to call upon them more often by looking for what’s right first, not what’s wrong.

What stood out for you?  If there is one take away here that will help you engage and inspire others, what would it be?




Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership Style, motivating & Inspiring

6 responses to “Leading with Emotion

  1. A great start to my Sunday. Thank you, for reminding me yet again that genuine enthusiasm, admiration and pride for the work of others are powerful motivators. As I sit here ready to write a customer testimonial for the fabolous woman who created my new web site (www.lisemoen.com), writing about the power of customer testimonials for my next blog piece and preparing for interviewing one of my clients on his and his business’ dramatic transformation over these past years.

    Just brilliant!


    • Gwyn Teatro

      Lise, one of the things I like about writing this blog is that, from time to time, it proves itself useful. If it has, in even the smallest way, done that for you, then *my* Sunday has started out very well too! Thank you!

  2. Gwyn,
    That was such a moving piece you wrote. It stirred up all sort of emotions in me. I loved the way you dissected the video and pointed out the lessons, especially “I don’t have to be perfect to be inspiring”. I need to remember that lesson.

    The clip of Celine was such an honest portrayal of the emotions that you go through in life. She wanted to be successful through her music her whole life and had made this commitment with Cirque du Soleil to do this huge project in Las Vegas. Then she found out she was pregnant, tried to stop the show and couldn’t. Wow, that’s a lot to take in, but she did and embraced everything with enthusiasm and encouragement. Isn’t that what true leaders do.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.


    • Gwyn Teatro

      Connie, Yes! Leadership is sometimes about following through with commitments, even when we’d rather be doing something else. And, as you so succinctly point out, the test of good leadership centres around the attitude s/he brings to the fulfillment of those commitments.
      Thanks for coming by and for adding your voice here 🙂

  3. Thank you for a line to remember Gywn – Perfect is not inspiring. Did you know that only nature produces a perfect sphere? Humans cannot do so. What a relief to know there is at least one thing we don’t even need to try to make perfect.

    Here is to our imperfections. They are, as in diamonds, what makes each of us shine in our own unique way.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Anne, I love your analogy of our imperfections to diamonds. It makes it so much more real and valuable to believe that our imperfections allow our light to reflect in a myriad of interesting ways. Thank you for that.

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