One Thing Great Leaders Do: Manage Their Emotions




Every business wants to hire, train and equip their managers and supervisors to be the best leaders they can be, so that their teams and the business can thrive. This means that businesses have to carefully and thoughtfully identify their best leadership candidates, which begs the question: How do you determine what makes a leader great? 

The short answer - great leaders are mature leaders, which means they are highly self-aware and adept at managing their emotions as they interact with others. 

Your first thought may be that a great leader is defined by their confidence and their ability to command respect, but the truth is that the ability to manage emotions (theirs and those of others) is one of the most significant indicators of a great people leader.  

The most effective leaders can discern when their own ego and emotional reactions might overshadow their best intentions. Using the tool of self-awareness, they are able to continue to listen openly and thoughtfully to different opinions, demonstrate curiosity and desire to truly understand others' concerns, and bring others along to create shared solutions that everyone will support going forward.

It's a natural instinct to hold tight to our perspectives and ideas. We’ve already invested the time to think about an issue and decide what is best. But this becomes distinctly limiting when it is done at the expense of hearing others. People who care about making a difference want to, and need to be heard. The mature ones realize they don't need to get their way all the time, but they do expect to be heard. When they are they became/stay part of the solution for the long haul. YOU have the opportunity, or not, to be curious about their perspective and show them they are fully heard and considered and that you are willing to vary from what you think is right … again, or not.  It’s part of our nature to think differently from one another, it is critical to better understand our own reactions and work with those of others in order to help facilitate quick, lasting, and supported solutions. 

Rather than viewing conflict with a perspective of fear, let’s try to reframe it. Conflict isn’t so much a roadblock as it is an opportunity to engage in thoughtful debate, share ideas and opinions, and ultimately develop new and better solutions. 

When handled well, conflict can lead to great things:

• Innovation and creativity

• High levels of commitment

• Exceptional results

• Better solutions

• Improved and even strengthened relationships

Mature emotional intelligence skills enable leaders to harness conflict and use it as an opportunity to help every area of their business grow. 

Seeing Conflict Rationally and Clearly

It’s crucial that we learn to see conflict rationally and understand it clearly from all sides, without interpretation or misguided assumptions. Understanding how our limbic system works reveals why it can be so difficult for our brain to process conflict when an emotional response is triggered. 

Our limbic system processes information 80,000 times faster than the cortex by relying on patterns within our implicit memory. In fact, it can process 10,000,000 bits of information per second versus 26 bits per second in the cortex. This ancient system is what allows us to process our surroundings and react quickly. Importantly the limbic system is where sensory input first enters our awareness! Only then, does it shift to the rational processing part of our brain. Put simply, while this process is very efficient and serves us well from danger, it can lead us astray when we react based on emotion rather than logic. 

If we feel ourselves becoming emotionally charged in a conflict, 3 tools available to us that will help us move toward a more rational state of mind.


Take a moment to step back and observe what is truly happening:

  • Notice your physical reactions (is your skin flushed, can you feel your chest tightening, do you have that “pit in the stomach” feeling, etc.)
  • Focus on your breathing – take 2 or 3 conscious breaths
  • Notice what initial thoughts come to mind and see how your body is reacting (are you beginning to relax your breathing, do you feel less flushed?)


Notice your internal reaction to what is happening:

  • How are you interpreting the situation and the other person’s behavior?
  • What are your opinions, feelings or judgments? 
  • Note the things you are considering saying and see if you can turn them into questions that will allow you to “hear” the other person


Look at the situation from a different perspective:

  • What is the other person’s driving behavior? 
  • What is their positive intent.
  • What other factors might be influencing their point of view? 
  • What are they worried might happen?
  • What does a poor outcome mean for them?
  • How can you reframe the narrative using positive intent? 

Simply taking a moment to pause and notice our internal reactions can minimize our outward reactions. 

With practice, you will learn how to “step back” emotionally and intellectually from potential conflict and see that you are able to move to solutions in a way that demonstrates partnership, curiosity respect for everyone's point of view. 

If you or a leader you know could use a head start in learning how to manage emotions in conflict and become a better leader because of it, schedule a call with us today. Help your team move beyond workplace challenges and toward being the great leaders you know they can be! 


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