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Why Emotional Management is a Leadership Imperative

By Ali Davies

Leaders, whether they are attempting to address the world’s most pressing and difficult challenges, or trying to deliver sustainable success for their business, must take into account an often overlooked aspect of leadership – emotional management. Ali Davies, change strategist and executive coach, explains why.

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In recent decades, the tide of change and development in the way we live and work has brought with it great possibility and opportunity. However, on the flip side, it has also opened the door to new challenges at many different levels. As a result, many people are feeling and experiencing an increased sense of instability and fracturing of possibility and potential. Dealing with this effectively requires collaboration, commitment, action and a shared sense of direction and purpose.

At Davos, leaders, politicians, celebrities, community representatives, businesses and organisations gather to talk about initiatives, strategies and solutions. Their aim is to find a way forward, that delivers tangible results, and enables us to succeed and thrive in a way that serves everyone.
These discussions are an important part of finding permanent and sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing and difficult challenges. However, often there is a reliance and focus on conventional approaches and methodologies that overlook a powerful skill and strategy that would increase the prospects of success.

That factor is emotional management. By emotional management I mean the ability to proactively identify how and why individual and group emotions will impact performance, progress and results and have strategies, processes and methods to effectively manage those to achieve specific outcomes that benefit all parties involved. For example, if an organisation wants to improve performance or create changes of some kind, the usual strategic planning, implementation and communication process would also include assessment of likely emotional drivers and responses, impact analysis and processes for managing those as part of an integrated approach to the situation and circumstances.

Creating change or achieving specific results is driven by how we behave. And our behaviour is heavily influenced and driven by how we think and feel. So, our emotions have a significant impact on how we behave and, therefore, on end results.

Unless we understand and manage emotions effectively, results become less predictable and less sustainable. One problem is that emotional management is a subject not commonly talked about, let alone embraced. Rarely do you hear conversations, especially in business and organisations, about emotions and how they impact current and future results. It is not often a factor considered when developing strategy and plans.

Emotion is often seen as a “soft” subject, because it is not tangible. But, just because we cannot easily apply metrics to emotion or note its value on a P&L, its impact on outcomes is still significant.

Emotional management is, I believe, one of the main leadership skills and strategies required to succeed and thrive in our new and emerging world. Those who do not accept and embrace this aspect of management will not only miss opportunities but will also start to lag leaders and organisations that embrace and prioritise emotion. Emotions and their management need to become the norm as part of developing solutions, strategy and better results.

As Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum said: “Our first response must be to develop new models for cooperation that are not based on narrow interests but on the destiny of humanity as a whole.”

Schwab refers to cooperation as a key success factor. Cooperation is driven by individual and collective behaviour. And behaviour is heavily influenced by emotions. Those who are able to manage emotions effectively and incorporate them into process and strategy will be the successful leaders of the emerging new world.