If there is one lesson in leadership that I can impart on anyone, it is this: People Remember Emotion.  It’s just that simple.  Understanding this will absolutely develop your emotional intelligence in a way that will help you become a truly effective leader.  Read on!

Why Do People Remember Emotion?

Think about a couple of memories you have from over a month ago.  It doesn’t matter what they are.  Now, ask yourself why those memories stand out more than others.  It’s because you were emotionally affected by whatever happened.  Think about the strongest memories from your childhood.  Are you remembering them because they are times where you had a very powerful emotional reaction to something?  My most vivid memories from high school include performing as the lead character in my school’s musical, conducting our marching band on the field at Grand Nationals, and spending time with friends — all of which had huge emotional impacts on me.

According to Linda J. Levine and David A. Pizarro at the University of California, Irvine, emotional events are remembered better than non-emotional events.  Emotions are responses to changes in the status of goals; that they motivate thoughts and actions directed toward maintaining, preventing, or coping with those changes; and that specific emotions are associated with different motivations. [1]

Therefore, the fact that people remember emotion is directly correlated to motivations in their behavior.  So, that begs the question – How do you as a leader use that correlation to your advantage as you seek to motivate and inspire your employees?

emotional distress
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Emotional Intelligence

Great leaders have emotional intelligence, which means they are empathetic and can put themselves in another person’s shoes.  The definition of emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others [2].  Doing this allows the leader to understand what the person most desires, needs, and craves.  When this happens, a bond is formed between the leader and follower.  You want to get your employees to respond to what needs to be done?  Use emotional intelligence and be empathetic.  It will work.

Here’s another trick to leadership.  Since we already know that people are motivated by either moving away from pain or moving toward pleasure, this goes hand-in-hand with what I’m saying.  Creating an emotional experience and connection with someone is more likely to motivate them because of this reason; but, it’s also more likely to change this person moving forward because they will remember the emotions involved with your leadership at that time.  They won’t remember what you said, they will remember 1) how you said it and 2) how it made them feel.  Use this to your advantage.  As an empathetic leader, you will be able to understand the emotions of those around you and affect them through your actions.

Okay – How Do I Lead With Emotional Intelligence?

So, maybe you’re asking yourself, “Why should I care about emotion?”  Here’s the thing: If you want to truly inspire people and motivate them to do what you need done, you’re going to have to lead them.  Here’s how you do just that:

  1. Don’t Pretend to Care – People are smart.  They understand (for the most part) when they are being manipulated.  If you really don’t care about the people you’re trying to lead, find a new job.  Leadership just isn’t for you (and that’s okay).  Care about your employees and what they need to be emotionally well-balanced.  It will go a long way.
    Happy young woman supporting her friends decision at psychological
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  2. Help Them Grow – Take care of your employees and look out for them.  Too many managers are not interested in what they can do for their employees – only what their employees can do for them.  If that means giving up a good employee to recommend them for a promotion, do it.  If it means encouraging someone to go back to school, which leads to them finding another career, DO IT!  Your employees will recognize you looking out for them and enabling them to succeed.  In turn, they will take care of you.
  3. Don’t Be Above Them – I have seen too many managers take advantage of their position.  A true leader is humble and knows that they wouldn’t be able to succeed without their followers.  Don’t take unfair advantages that your employees don’t get.  Don’t ask them to do things you wouldn’t do yourself.  And do not, whatever you do, resent them or consider them insignificant.  Understand you need them as much as they need you.  Be vulnerable, be human, and be transparent.

So, that’s it.  Emotional interaction has a huge impact on the motivation and the memory of others.  All of that to say, consider the emotional impact you are having on your employees.  It will have a tremendous impact on the results you are trying to achieve – either positively or negatively.  You decide.

[1] Linda J. Levine and David A. Pizarro.  Emotion and Memory Research: A Grumpy Overview. Social Cognition, Vol. 22, no. 5, 2004, pp. 530-554. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/4ff4905c84aee104c1f4f2c2/t/5084d86ce4b02e0cbd1f6b86/1350883436575/Levine+Pizarro+2004.pdf

[2] What is Emotional Intelligence?  Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/emotional-intelligence

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