Consciously or not, leaders influence the emotions of their direct reports. And exceptional leaders, it seems, do this in rather predictable ways. They heighten their direct reports’ positive emotions. They also act to reduce team members’ negative feelings. How do they do this? By paying attention to upbeat states and coaching their employees beyond negativity. Both actions are examples of emotion regulation in action.
Great leaders also manage their own emotions. A fascinating research study by Cote, Van Kleef and Sy showed that leaders who make an effort to ‘upregulate’ their enthusiasm about organisational change are perceived as more effective in leading that change. Likewise, perceptions of leaders are improved when they ‘downregulate’ displays of anxiety.
The same study showed that “followers may quickly catch the emotions of their leaders, and caught emotions, in turn, may affect how followers work.” In other words, the leader’s emotions are contagious. It might sound like common sense, but many leaders fail to take this into account when emotions are running high.
When people see positive emotions being shown, they want to reciprocate these feelings. If leaders express happiness and pay attention to team members’ positive emotions, team members work better. Consider this when you’re reacting to daily events in your workplace!
About the author of this fun fact:
Eleanor Shakiba is a positive psychology trainer. She has been training and coaching ‘positive deviants’ since 1994. She delivers customised workshops for corporate teams, as well as practitioner level programs for HR and L&D specialists. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners. She also runs a range of retreats and workshops for trainers and facilitators.