Emotions are Data
Leaders who live and lead with love and performance are those who have cultivated the capacity to attain states of emotional self-mastery and the maturity and wisdom to trust that right action will emanate from such states.
Last week, I received an email from a good friend in response to my recent weekly blog, “Love and Performance: The Steve Jobs Counterfactual.” He asked the following:
As I read your column, I wondered: what does this look like? What are the actions? What are the tasks of leading with love and performance? How, when walking into a company and seeing a leader, would one know they lead with love and performance?
I spent some time thinking about these questions. What does it look like when leading with love and performance? I'm not sure I yet have the answer. But what did become clear is the answer to a slightly different and perhaps more accessible and revealing question: what does it feel like when leading in such a way?
Feelings or emotions are immediately known. They are undeniable. They proceed and give rise to action. Emotions can be the most important data a leader has. As I began to pay closer attention to my emotional states last week, a clear distinction emerged. I found myself in one of two states. In the first, which I will call the state of ego, I experienced anger, frustration, blame, resentment, and contempt. Thankfully this state was fleeting and rare. In the second, which I will call the state of self-mastery, I experienced compassion, clarity, courage, confidence, calmness, connectedness, curiosity, and creativity. My actions were naturally derivative of the emotional state I allowed myself to be in. In a state of ego, I can be dismissive, unkind, closed, and disconnected. Those who I'm trying to lead will likely experience feelings of anger, fear, and blame, and act accordingly. In a state of self-mastery, I am clear, kind, decisive, and inspiring. From that way of leading, I produce a corresponding state in others such that their actions similarly conform to such state. Leaders who live and lead with love and performance are thus those who have cultivated the capacity to attain states of emotional self-mastery and the maturity and wisdom to trust that right action will emanate from such states.
Here's the thing. The easy path is the state of ego. It is the default path, the unconscious one. It can produce results to be sure. Yet those results carry with them the cost of an acute state of anger and frustration for the leader and those being led. The hard path is the state of self-mastery. It requires being awake. It demands constant effort and discipline. It too can generate performance. Yet, in place of an acute state of suffering, it comes with a reward – a feeling of clarity, calmness, courage, and compassion within the leader and those who choose to follow.
Like everything in life, it is a choice. Perhaps the most fundamental choice a leader can make.
For those of you familiar with Richard Schwartz and the work of internal family systems, the emotional state of self-mastery described above, borrows directly from Schwartz’s eight Cs of the Self.
Perhaps the best example of a love and performance leader is Marcus Aurelius. The friend above was the first to suggest that I read Meditations, a book I now recommend to virtually every CEO I work with.
I’m fascinated with memetics, a Darwinian-inspired model of how information spreads virally. The latest meme that is dominating Twitter is the distinction between wordcel and shape rotator. Here is an article by the originator of the meme explaining what it is. If you’re interested in memetics, I highly recommend the book The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore. She has a great Ted Talk as well.