A couple years back I read part of a book entitled ‘Primal Leadership’ (written by Daniel Goleman of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ fame). The thesis of the book was that the primary job of the leader is managing the emotions of those they lead.
It takes only the slight attention to see the enormous role emotions play in our lives. It motivates people incredibly powerfully. When I first went into administration I was thinking my main job was to make rational decisions. My naiveté could hardly have been surpassed.
We live in a world of emotion. When our Faculty was unionizing, I remember a colleague talking about how it seemed like an evil spirit had descended upon the place. As articulated in Goleman’s book, feelings spread—especially the feelings of the leader in any situation. Ever notice how much the negative emotions of others bothers us? Very annoying, really. Even when we think another is being completely unreasonable, they ruin our spirit.
Thankfully, positive emotion spreads as well. That gives us power for good! These facts also, unfortunately, make us easy to manipulate. It’s amazing what we’ll do just to reduce or prevent the negative emotion of another. I’m sure this is generally a good thing; we are caused to seek the happiness of others even involuntarily. And I suppose those not so-affected are sociopaths. But many use this fact, often unintentionally, but often intentionally as well, to control others and get what they want.
Let’s be less saps for this sort of manipulation, and use emotion for good.