Emotion is an amazing thing. It can lead us to make the right decisions, or the wrong ones. It can help us work through a situation, or be hampered by one. And there isn’t necessarily any right way to lead, or learn, through it.
You see, the challenge with emotion is that the same form of it can lead to very different outcomes for different people. And that makes it both unpredictable and at the same time totally necessary.
As leaders and learners, we have to be able to meet people where they are when we are working with them. And that means understanding that different personalities require different ways of supporting, and assisting, the learning of others. So emotion, and the showcasing of it is a great strategy for helping exhibit our willingness to be personable and to really know others.
The other day, my daughter ran in a kid’s race hosted by the Taconic Road Runners Club. It was organized to benefit local schools, and as my daughter is still fairly extrinsically motivated at this stage, the benefit of “Paws” (part of her school’s PBIS system to recognize mature and appropriate actions) played a major role in her wanting to run. In addition, she loves to be on the move, so anything with competition that involves running gets her jazzed up. The first grade girls were the first group to race, and they broke the forty-or-so kids up into different heats. When my daughter’s heat kicked off, she tore into gear, and ran a quarter mile in one minute and forty seconds. I was incredibly excited for her, and when I took my youngest daughter to meet her at the finish, there she was with a shiny medal beaming from ear-to-ear. She said, “I was so happy I was crying” which was really sweet, and it made me reflect on how the same action (crying) can showcase so many different emotions. We went home and she ran inside to show the medal to my wife, and we let her know how happy we were for her. (As a side note: I said, “Wow, you should get involved in more running races.” She replied, “Nah. Running isn’t for me.” Too funny).
Of course, the key to any of our work with emotion is understanding it, and working with it to prevent it from leading us down a path that would result in us being less than we really are. When we are able to control our emotions, as opposed to them controlling us that is when we become most effective at showing just how human we really are. The days of “don’t smile until Thanksgiving” are not only gone, but likely never should have existed in the first place. Because we can’t hide from our emotions, and we should never encourage others to do so as well. There is much to be learned from how emotions can help us become better at what we do.