Leaders who effectively express their emotions use words and physical expressions to communicate their feelings in a constructive way. This helps to build the authentic relationships that contribute to successful leadership.

Consider the leader whose facial expression appears to communicate a particular feeling before he utters a word or the leader whose poker face gives absolutely no indication of how she feels about an issue. These two extremes are equally ineffective because people are left to interpret what they see. That interpretation may or may not be accurate, but it very well could send people in the wrong direction leading to wasted time and effort.

I encourage leaders to combine their nonverbal expression with the words that communicate how they feel.  Doing so leaves very little open to interpretation.  Communicating your emotions with words like, “I am excited about…” “I am concerned about…”  “I am frustrated with…”  or “the impact of this situation worries me because…”  communicates emotions, provides accurate information for others to respond to, and helps build a culture of open communication.

As a leader, your emotional expression is constantly on center stage. The next time you find yourself dealing with a situation that requires the effective expression of emotions, consider these steps:

  1. Assess the Situation: What’s the difficulty? How is the situation impacting your team?
  2. Reflect on Your Feelings: What do you feel about the situation? Assign “emotion words” to those feelings.
  3. Make Your Selection: What would your team appreciate hearing from you? Don’t assume they already know what you are thinking.
  4. Delivery: Take your notes to the meeting as a reference and integrate your “emotion words” into the conversation.