Emotions in leadership: a necessity for the modern workplace

Urs Merkel
March 31, 2024

In today's fast-paced and dynamic working world, it is often overlooked that there are emotions behind every decision, action and interaction. For a long time, the maxim was that emotions had no place in the workplace. But this view is increasingly changing. In this article, we look at the importance of emotions in leadership, why it is important to give them space and how leaders can use their emotional intelligence to create a healthy and productive working environment.

Emotions in the workplace: more than just sensitivities

The first step in emotional leadership is to dispel the misconception that emotions are merely personal sensitivities and have no place in the workplace. This view ignores the fact that emotions are fundamental human responses that provide important information about our well-being, needs and motivations. Emotions such as appreciation, recognition and the need to be seen and understood play a central role in employee motivation and retention. Similarly, allowing for grief or frustration in difficult times can show that the company has a supportive and compassionate culture.

Purpose and emotional commitment

A strong sense of purpose or meaningfulness in work cannot arise without an emotional connection. In other words, a sense of purpose also arises from an emotional connection to a vision or mission. Employees who develop a deep emotional connection to the values and goals of their company show greater commitment and dedication. This "emotional commitment" not only leads to greater job satisfaction, but also to better performance. Managers should therefore not only clearly communicate the company's purpose, but also actively promote ways in which employees can personally identify and connect with this purpose.

The practice of emotional leadership

Emotional leadership requires managers to develop and use their own emotional intelligence. This means being able to perceive, understand and respond appropriately to their own emotions and the emotions of others. One way to achieve this is through active listening and asking specific questions in everyday situations. However, such an empathic attitude should not be one-sided; it is crucial that empathy is practiced in both directions, both from managers to employees and vice versa.

Conclusion and recommendations for action

Recognizing and integrating emotions in the workplace is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of progressive and effective leadership. To create a culture where emotions have their rightful place, leaders should:

  1. Actively promote an open and supportive communication culture where employees feel safe to express their emotions.
  2. Hold regular feedback sessions to recognize and address emotional needs and concerns.
  3. Provide training and workshops on emotional intelligence to improve the awareness and skills of both managers and employees.
  4. Clearly define the company's purpose and identify ways in which each individual can contribute to and connect with this purpose.
  5. Continuously develop a culture. Constantly shedding light on what our current values and principles of conduct are and what we stand for internally and externally by including our employees.
Urs Merkel
September 1, 2023