We often hear the phrase, “As the leader goes, so goes the team.”
Everyone has experienced an unpleasant work environment brought on by a leader’s poor attitude at one time or another. If we’re honest, most of us can point to a time when we were the very source of negativity, which may have dampened the spirits of those on our teams.
After all, we’re all human. It happens to the best of us.
Without getting too science-y, suffice it to say, research has and continues to prove that our moods directly impact the emotions of people around us. In Daniel Goleman’s article “Understanding the Science of Moods at Work,” he noted that New York University’s Caroline Bartel and University of Michigan’s Richard Saavedra found in 70 work teams spanning several different industries that people in meetings together begin to share moods—good and bad—within just two hours! Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the “open-loop limbic system,” which, from a leadership perspective, is a scientific way of saying, “As the leader goes, so goes the team.” In other words, the leader’s mood sets the tone for any given team, at any given time; and how a team feels often dictates the level of performance.
The Leadership Challenge
At SGEi, we define leadership as “the ability to inspire the hearts and minds of other people to be their best, to want to do what you want them to do, and to be who you need them to be.” I love this definition for many reasons, but what I love most is its focus on other people.
Leadership is not about us. Leadership is 100% about others. It’s about creating environments in which people become their very best so the team can perform at its very best.
The quickest way to “inspire the hearts and minds of other people” is to simply make it all about the people! We must keep them in mind with every single action we take and word we speak. More importantly than what we say or do is how we say or do it.
Great leaders have mastered the art of managing their own emotions so that they positively impact those around them as opposed to letting their own emotions dictate how they communicate.
Managing Our Emotions
There are many ways to manage our own emotions—from mindfulness habits, deep breathing techniques, counting to ten, or even “sleeping on it” when we’re angry. Even making ourselves laugh impacts our mood!
Here’s another simple one every leader can practice daily: When frustrated, annoyed, nervous, mad, or even sad, simply take the focus off of yourself, and think about how you can positively impact someone else’s day.
Simple changes in a leader’s attitude will absolutely, positively change the “emotional latitudes” of any team, anytime, anywhere. A few examples are below. Try one each day this week or try them all today! We’d love to hear about the change in your team’s emotional latitude all because of a change in your attitude!
Attitude Change #1: From Driver to Encourager
Leaders often think lecturing their teams over and over, for hours on end, week in and week out is the answer. Sure, results are important. However, it’s our job as leaders first to prove to every single person on our team just how significant, capable, and important they are.
Great leaders encourage teams by reminding them of what they’ve accomplished in the past, so they believe in their potential to perform their very best today. The best leaders encourage each individual to think about two things on their drive home each night after work: What did I do well today? And, What can I improve upon tomorrow?
The most inspirational leaders are those who take time to recognize team members’ talents, letting them know they appreciate their strengths as value-added keys to the team’s success.
When leaders transition from driver to encourager, their team’s emotional latitude changes—teams go from feeling pressured to feeling confident, capable, and excited about simply making progress in their work.
Attitude Change #2: From Controller to Developer
Once we make the jump from doer to leader, it’s less about what we can do and becomes all about what we can inspire others to do. Far too often, leaders think controlling every little detail of every person’s day will drive the team forward. The opposite is true! The more leaders micromanage every detail, approach, process, and even conversation, the more incompetent people feel.
Conversely, when leaders set the tone with clear expectations, articulate an inspirational vision for the future, and then let go, trusting their teams before they know they can, people feel empowered. When leaders carve out time to educate and coach, employees further develop skill sets, lean into their strengths, and ultimately grow into their full potential.
When leaders become developers rather than controllers, their team’s emotional latitude changes—teams go from feeling suffocated, unable to fully be themselves to feeling empowered, entrusted, and competent; all of which add up to a motivated, productive team!
Attitude Change #3: From Presenter to Facilitator
It’s not uncommon for leaders to dominate conversations, pontificating from high on their soapbox. Sure, there are situations for which an inspirational locker room speech is well-suited. But, too often, leaders believe their word should be final, the end all be all, as they frequently begin their sentences with, “I think…” Transformational leaders instead build a sense of community among teams. They master the art of asking, “What do you think?” At once, this change in attitude initiates conversations, sparks ideation, shares perspective, and, over time, it strengthens relationships and trust.
Inspirational leaders inspire by painting a picture of where the organization is going, but then promptly ask people how they should get there. Shortly after, conversations, ideas, and purposeful actions follow. All the team needed was someone who could facilitate the conversation. Great leaders understand it’s less about the ideas they present and all about the ideas they can facilitate among the talented team in front of them.
Bringing It All Together
Above all else, great leadership is absolutely about influence. Think about the greatest leaders you’ve ever known. Chances are, the reason those individuals are coming to mind isn’t that they berated you, controlled you, or lectured you. My guess is they inspired you to take actions you never knew you needed to take so you could become the person you’re capable of becoming. They encouraged you, developed you, and facilitated the very conversations that compelled you to become who you were capable of becoming.
You and I can do the same with our teams.
Make sure your teams enjoy the journey. If and when you stay positive, regardless of the circumstance, remember your mood will directly impact that of your team. If your team’s mood and emotions are on the up and up, their performance will be right in line.
Make it purposeful. Make it inspirational. Make it fun.
Change your attitude and change your team’s emotional latitude.
“…if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” —Jimmy Buffett, American musician
At SGEi, we create and facilitate leadership development initiatives so leaders can engender change in their team’s emotional latitudes. Connect with us to see how you can develop your leaders to be memorable, motiving, and effective.