Leaders are emotionally contagious

FlowerA leader’s power over the emotional climate of a team – especially in group meetings – is often underestimated. Everyone pays attention to the leader for subtle cues. If you’ve ever experienced someone anxiously asking “what’s wrong?” when you were simply deep in thought about something that had nothing to do with the person or the subject at hand, then you’re aware of how closely people pay attention.

Years ago, I had a personal revelation about the extent to which I unwittingly spread both positive and negative emotions – sometimes both – and in less than 10 minutes. Fortunately, a manager who reported to me asked if I was open to some feedback. It was one of the seminal emotional intelligence learning experiences of my career and I think of it often. Her feedback explains it all –

She said, “When you praise the team for having done a wonderful job with an assignment, everyone feels great. It’s like basking in the sun. What you may not be aware of is that you usually don’t give us more than a minute to enjoy the feeling before you move on to talking about a new slate of challenging goals.”

She went on to say:

“It feels like you handed me a bouquet of flowers,

and just as I was beginning to enjoy them…

you cut the tops off!”


Wow! First of all, the ability to communicate using such a simple and memorable analogy is rare and truly admirable. The gift of authentic feedback is something leaders can use a lot more of. The fact that I was trusted to receive it in the spirit it was intended was a real compliment.

In the tsunami of meetings, deliverables and pressure to multi-task 24/7, it’s easy to overlook the impact of our words and actions on others. It’s absolutely crucial not to. Being other-centered requires consciousness and practice. Take just a minute or two before any group or one-on-one meeting to consciously remind yourself to leave our own baggage at the door, commit to be fully present, focus on others and actively listen. It’s a time investment we can all afford – especially when the outcome is improved engagement, trust and performance!


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© copyright 2014  Marilou Myrick, The Stage®/ Masters Among Us, Inc. All rights reserved.

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One Response to Leaders are emotionally contagious

  1. Greg Johnson November 21, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Great article on both emotional intelligence and managing communications. I was the monitor of a Townhall meeting recently and closed out the session with a little dissertation on the effects of communications and now I’m reading about it in a similar way.
    I shared with those present that “how” we communicate is critical and sometimes more critical than the content we believe we are imparting. There were doctors, practitioners and lay people in attendance that actually understood what I was saying.
    My point was that “how” we communicate is a strategic planned intervention on any level. In business or the professional environment we must anticipate the behavioral reaction to what we are about to say prior to saying what it is we wish to say. I appreciate Goldman’s Emotional Intelligence perspective but it is NOT a stand alone professional skill. Communications is a professional skill that incorporates EI. Your illustration through this article reflects the communications EI dynamic.

    Thanks for the early morning stimulation.


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