I became a principal when I was 29 years old. Because my youth and inexperience were noticeable among our veteran faculty, I sought to ensure that no one questioned my ability to lead. I believed that, “Executives, and particularly leaders, should be either stoic or cheerful; they must project confidence and damp down any negativity bubbling up inside them.” A decade of leadership experience has firmly disproved that early belief. Our emotions deserve management, not suppression.
I was reminded of my leadership beginnings while coaching emerging leaders last week. Whenever we choose to lead, the pounding waves of emotion, buffeting us from all directions, can make staying “on an even keel” a challenge. Angry colleagues, frightened students, changing demands and day-to-day frustrations can make leaders feel like they’re riding a roller-coaster of feelings. I’ve found a few resources to share about managing your emotions, which can be challenging for both new and experienced leaders. Susan David and Christina Congleton wrote a highly detailed guide to Emotional Agility: How effective leaders manage their negative thoughts and feelings in the Harvard Business Review, 2013. Watch Susan David explain how to be emotionally agile, or self-assess your emotional agility with this quiz. For a quick read, check out Dan Casetta’s 5 Tips to Develop Better Control over Your Emotions, including the wise, “Focus on what you can control.”
Take this tip, and do your best to follow David and Congleton’s guidance to tackle your feelings “in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way.” Happy managing!