Too often in my professional life I was told there was no room in business for emotions. I came to believe it with time. And yet, there was always a side of me that was frustrated with this concept – with management’s tendency to silence emotions, ignore or try to work around them.
I realise now that it is a huge mistake to ignore emotions in business – indeed, emotions are at the very epicentre of business and good business leaders recognise, understand and use this fact. This past month has been a constant reminder and investigation into the importance of emotions in business. Through international marketing, change management, leadership and even international strategy, every topic has underlined the importance of emotions in the business environment.
Emotions are at the very base of human behaviour; they drive people to be and act as they do. Just as we need to appeal to people’s emotions to sell a product, we need to appeal to people’s emotions to drive them (and consequently the business) to success. Yesterday’s business environment, where whatever the “boss” decided was to be done without question is over. The job of leaders today is to unleash human potential. The key word here is “human”. It is crucial for leaders of today’s businesses to realise that they are humans leading other humans and that to try to ignore emotions will lead to failure, both personal and professional.
Of course, there are paradoxes to this approach. Negative emotions are unhealthy in an organisation. Still, to ignore or try to squash them is far worse. Leaders, then, have the challenge to turn negative emotions into positive ones. In a constantly changing environment, negative emotions, fears and resistance will be the rule rather than the exception. But what leaders today need to understand is that there is tremendous power beneath those negative emotions – opportunity to transform what are very strong emotions into powerful forces for positive change.
Emotions are at the very root of innovation, commitment and the human energy that is essential to move forward in our business and economic context. The best leaders, those who truly transform their businesses, appeal to people’s emotions, respect them, understand them, work with them. True leaders recognise the human aspect behind the work. Emotions, thus, play a very important role in business today, and to those who choose to ignore this fact, beware. Without an understanding of the human element of business and indeed of life, any success is likely to be artificial and short-lived.