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Do Emotions Reveal a Leader’s Strength or Weakness?

Seeing Emotions as Strength Not Weakness

Following is a guest post from a client, Lori Zipes, a Systems Engineer with the US Navy.  She is someone who exemplifies the power of everyday leadership.  I continue to be impressed and inspired by Lori’s courage in opening up challenging conversations in a way that others can hear and engage in authentically to cause positive change in her workplace.  This is just one of the many examples of powerful conversations Lori initiates.

It’s always a nice discussion when female colleagues come to chat and share experiences and counsel. During the course of some recent informal mentoring sessions, two of my colleagues confided in me that they had cried in front of someone in a professional setting. Both showed a sense of regret, or a bit of shame; it’s difficult to articulate, but it was evident that they wished it had not happened. I shared with them both that I had at one point in my career been in an extremely difficult and frustrating position and had cried in front of MY BOSS (worst possible situation) several times. Every single time I was trying with all my might to not let it happen, but it did.

Neither of these women are people I would consider to be “weak” in any way. In fact, both are incredibly competent, dedicated and driven women who are excellent at their jobs. So it has been really bothering me that when tears fall, the perception is that the person can’t handle what is going on, that they are weak, that THEY are the problem. I hate that these women feel badly that they got visibly upset because, frankly, given the situation with which each was dealing, they had every right to be upset. These women care very deeply about what they are trying to accomplish. Their commitment to success runs deep, and they take the responsibility of their position very seriously. When things are very wrong, rather than saying, “Oh well, it’s just work,” they get upset. That strikes me as not anything related to weakness. In fact, it seems to me a sign of strength. A strength of commitment to their organization or our mission that should be appreciated, not seen as a flaw or failure. These are the people who will likely fix what is wrong.

So the next time you see someone getting emotional over work, I ask you to consider this:

Instead of seeing them as weak, consider that they may be one of your most valuable assets.

Lori ZipesLori works as an engineer for the US Navy and is a “graduate” of Susan’s Leadership in Action™ program.  She and several of her colleagues have been engaged in proactive efforts to support women, and encourage them to aspire to leadership positions.  Initiating perspective-changing conversations like this one is part of their strategy. 

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Chery Gegelman   |   05 April 2018   |   Reply

Lori you make such an important point. Tears can mean so many things.
Passion.
Frustration.
Concern.
Empathy.
Or maybe dealing with massive change on a personal and work level all at one time.

Tears alone don’t indicate weakness or failure. They can simply be a release that helps someone focus again.

“Being both soft and strong is a combination very few have mastered.” ― Yasmin Mogahed

Susan Mazza   |   05 April 2018   |   Reply

Fabulous quote Chery! Thanks for adding your thoughts