Emotional Expressiveness for Leaders – Book Notes from
Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, by Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern
Notes Chapter 6 – Emotion Drives Expression
Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us.
Leaders don’t show emotions. We hear lots of reasons. It’s unbecoming; it undermines authority.
For women, it says they’re not tough enough. The reasons go on and on. It’s a cop-out.
The role of emotional maturity in leadership is crucial. Success in life and leadership probably depends more on emotional skills, including the ability to recognize and express emotion, than it does on traditional IQ.
Emotional leadership is the spark that ignites a company’s performance, creating a bonfire of success or a landscape of ashes.
They must express their own emotions publicly.
Authentic excitement: it’s the emotion leaders tell us they want most in their people.
Leaders are responsible for the energy level. You – as leader – are responsible for the energy level – the level of authentic excitement – in your organization.
The link between excitement and commitment and results is too hard to grasp.
- Generate excitement by expressing emotion.
- Express authentic emotion.
- Use passionate purpose to invest your words and actions with authentic feeling.
#1: Generate excitement by expressing emotion.
You – as leader – arouse emotional energy by expressing emotion yourself, by personally investing the work with appropriate and authentic feeling.
The only way to improve your ability to genuinely express emotions is to move outside your comfort zone.
If you own your emotion and feel totally comfortable with it, then you will be fine. In fact, it can make you, the leader, whether male or female, even more powerful.
We advocate the expression and evocation of emotions that deepen our bonds with others, help others in some way, or reveal our humanity and vulnerability. Such emotions are hardly limited to positive ones.
Anger, frustration, and pain – properly expressed – can ultimately draw us closer to one another.
Your moods have enormous impact on those you lead.
Because the expression of emotion is such a powerful tool for leaders, it must be used carefully.
Leaders cannot disregard the consequences of expressing any and all feelings. Use them thoughtfully.
#2: Express authentic emotion
People tell us sometimes the work they do just doesn’t merit much emotion. Remember, the emotional response of the audience hangs on the emotional intensity of the leader. If you put no emotional energy in, you’ll get none back.
How can you inspire action if you don’t find the compelling emotions? We suggest the emotions are there. Use a tool actors use: Ask yourself why/what you are fighting for.
A lot of leaders are just vaguely wandering in the general direction of something unclear.
Then they wonder why their employees are lackadaisical. Find the emotional reasons to act.
#3: Invest passionate purpose into your words and actions
Every time you want to communicate a message of any kind, identify your intention or purpose by naming it with a specific verb.
Most of the time leaders say they just need to explain or relay information. But that lacks any energy, passion or tension.
Instead of naming your purpose with some dry, colorless verb, find another verb that contains and expresses more emotional intensity.
You must find your passionate purpose. To do that, here’s a list of some verbs to help you find the words that are more exciting and appropriate to your purposes:
The list could go on, but the point is to find other more exciting verbs that “inform” or “announce.”
Every human exchange – every meeting every presentation, every memo, every serious conversation – can be thought about in a way that reveals needs and desires, real or potential conflicts.
If you want to invest what you do with more emotion, you must ask yourself the same questions an actor asks:
- What am I fighting for?
- What do others want?
- What are the obstacles?
Then use your answers to select the appropriate verb that captures your passionate purpose.
Every meeting, presentation, memo or conversation represents an opportunity to change minds in some way. Your task is to identify the change desired, or the problem to be overcome, and invest it with passionate purpose.
Passionate purpose is the key to finding and expressing your emotion in the workplace. Lubar and Halpern suggest three guidelines for leaders who want to master expressiveness:
- Conquer your fear of over-expressiveness.
- Use your voice and body congruently.
- Tell stories to unleash your expressiveness.
1. Fear of over-expressiveness: Most leaders I know don’t want to appear dramatic. Many go to the opposite extreme, appearing serious and subdued. In doing so, however, they suppress all emotional expression and become hard to read. Unless you’re in adversarial negotiations, you want your emotions to be apparent in your face, in your body and your voice. This may be uncomfortable for some leaders who are wary about coming across as overly expressive.
According to authors Lubar and Halpern:
Proper expression requires more than turning the dial up or down. As you move along that leadership spectrum from “responsive” to “assertive,” you’ll need to become more or less expressive.
If you want to become more expressive as a leader, you’ll need to experiment with letting go of habits and using your body and voice in certain ways. Get some good feedback from a trusted peer or mentor, or your coach. Don’t let your familiar comfortable habits restrain you from authentic expression.
2. Use your voice and body congruently: Problems of credibility arise when your face and body send different messages at the same time as your words. You may not even be aware of some of your “ticks” or gestures that are out of sync with how you truly feel. One good way to align them is to make sure you’re speaking from your core values. When you feel purposely passionate, your energy is communicated throughout your body.
There are many ways to do this, but none more effective than working with a coach. In fact, it’s the only way you can make changes in your overall leadership presence so that you are more readily perceived as a strong candidate for promotion.
3. Tell stories to unleash your expressiveness: As a speaker, telling stories can help you naturally express yourself in a manner that’s powerfully congruent. You don’t need to be a particularly accomplished or trained speaker to come across as genuine and interesting. When you tell a personal story, your voice, body and emotions line up naturally to create authenticity.
Stories help you express emotion in two ways:
- They give you permission to take on roles, speak in the voices of others. Heightened expression is almost expected when you tell a good story.
- Stories generate emotional responses from your audience.
In these ways, stories lift both speaker and audience into the domain of feelings. They touch both the head and the heart. Your message gets communicated on a deeper level than ordinary bullet points can ever do.
I believe that if you want to inspire people, you’ve got to reveal more than just facts. Yet many smart executives aren’t particularly expressive when it comes to feelings. There’s no better way to learn to share emotions than through storytelling.
How to start using stories: There’s no better way to master leadership storytelling than to keep a notebook and jot down stories each time one pops up from your memory. These can be current examples you encounter in work, or stories from as far back as childhood. Here’s a list of typical stories:
- Personal: “When I was seventeen…”
- Moments that made you who you are or that clarified your values, defining moments.
- Moments when you discovered your leadership voice or potential.
- Big mistakes that taught you an important lesson.
- Personal career: “When I was working at…”
- Overcoming resistance to change.
- Learning experiences, moments of truth.
- Impersonal career stories (Jack Welch, A.G. Laffley, or any well-known CEO)
- Stories of how the future could look.
- Universal myths or fables.
Many of the leaders have a repertoire of stories they can immediately recall for any given occasion. You may be a natural storyteller, or not. The point is to start developing your stories so that you can remember them easily, tell them with passion, and use them to inspire your people. Nothing inspires like stories.