Research suggests that team members take cues from the emotional states of their leaders. Put simply, moods are contagious. Leaders who are mindful of this can use their emotions to keep motivation levels up. By the same token, chronically moody supervisors can wear down their team members and decrease their team’s overall productivity.

The key? Workers want to feel safe. The way a leader behaves is indicative of how things are going. If a leader responds to a situation with anxiety or stress, team members have reason to feel the same emotions. In contrast, if a leader responds with too much enthusiasm, workers can begin to feel complacent about their responsibilities.


Tough Bosses (L to R): George Steinbrenner III, Mr. Spacely, Anna Wintour.

To effectively manage one’s emotional states so that they do not adversely impact one’s team members, a leader needs to maintain composure. Presenting oneself calmly involves keeping both behavior and body language level. Effective leaders refrain from yelling or becoming overly animated during hard times and control their bodies so they their shoulders aren’t drooping or the lines of their mouths aren’t curving downward in worry or disappointment.

Behaving in an overly happy or optimistic manner can also be detrimental to team performance. Team members can see such behavior as forced, which produces a lack of trust because the leader appears disingenuous or even smarmy. Moreover, it is simply unrealistic that any person will be happy all the time. Team members will feel fine even if they recognize that their leader may be having a difficult day as long as the leader remains composed.

However, behaving with composure does not mean that effective leaders show no emotion at all. On the contrary, expressing concern and empathy for the wellbeing of one’s team members can improve the team’s overall mood and performance, as long as such expressions do not occur in an overly or overtly nervous fashion. This concept is known as dynamic resonance. Team members respond well to their leader’s ability to read their emotions and use that ability to guide them back to focus.

Composure and empathy depend on the leader’s level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence consists of four components that work together: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. While emotional intelligence is inherent to every individual, it is also something that can be further developed through training.

Self-awareness is the process by which one reads one’s own emotions. It helps leaders assess their strengths and weakness, helping them to develop confidence but also to note where their skills can use additional reinforcement. Self-aware leaders know the power of words and use them effectively to avoid hurting others by saying something off-putting. Engaging in self-reflection will help leaders take stock of where they are communicating their emotions to others effectively and where they can use some improvement.

Self-management is the component of emotional intelligence that allows leaders to maintain composure. It is the ability to control one’s emotions and act reliably and honestly.

Social awareness is the tool that helps leaders empathize with their team members and take stock of the team’s overall emotional mood. Greater social awareness helps leaders adapt their actions to avoid making negative impacts on the team and proactively foster positive ones.

Related to social awareness is relationship management, which is essential to communicating with team members in a concise, convincing, and clear manner. It also helps leaders deliver bad news in a tactful way that will minimize emotional upset.

Increased competition and changing business practices have made effective team leadership more crucial than ever before. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, proper emotional leadership is as important as goal-setting to achieve maximum productivity and the best returns.