Calm Down! Doris Kearns Goodwin says strong leaders learn to control negative and unproductive emotions.
Of course, we don’t want leaders who are screaming and yelling all the time so that others “have to hold them down.” We want our leaders to listen without taking things personally. We want our leaders to problem solve in the best interest of people. Often leaders have to leave their emotions out of decisions. Strong leaders know when to show emotion and when to contain it.
Note that Goodwin says, ”learn to control unproductive emotions”. There are times when showing your emotions can be productive. Every once in a while showing your disgust and sadness for things taking place brings attention to problems and sets things in motion for change. Here’s an example from the Bible, John 2:13-16: When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle, he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
Jesus was a man who demonstrated love and peace. He was a gentle leader – yet he overturned the tables. Why? He was disgusted and astonished by what he saw. In order to send a strong message, he showed some emotion. It was emotion that needed to happen.
This wasn’t the only time Jesus showed emotion. When Lazarus died the Bible says (John 11:33): When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” The Bible goes on to say how Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead. But the point is that Jesus was so moved by the sorrow of those people that he showed emotion, and he wept. Jesus felt their pain.
In the classroom, we teach children about emotions. We help them understand that having emotions is not wrong or bad – think about "boys don’t cry". If we want our boys to gain empathy, it is perfectly acceptable and okay for boys to cry. Our goal is to help children deal with their emotions in an appropriate manner. Yelling and screaming rarely gets you anywhere. But being able to use your emotion to form a stance and help others can be productive. Strong leaders and people who hope to make a difference in the world walk a fine line with displaying certain emotions. These leaders have to know when it is appropriate to show certain emotions, and then they have to understand that how they display that emotion can move people in a positive direction or a negative direction. Strong leaders know how to use productive emotion.
Understand your emotions. Take a breath. Think. Understand who you are. Be you, and don’t be afraid to use your emotions in a productive manner.