Great Leaders are Effective in Making Difficult Decisions…even amid chaos

by Nov 16, 2018


When we think of great leaders, we don’t picture them as highly emotional people. We think of them as people who are well thought-out and effective in making difficult decisions — even amid chaos. This is true, but understand it hasn’t always been this way for them.

Emotions Are Powerful

Emotions are powerful. They can be the fuel that motivates, but they also have the potential to get in the way of our most important business and personal relationships. John Kotter of Harvard Business School stated, “Because of the furious pace of change in business today, difficult-to-manage relationships sabotage more business than anything else. It’s not a question of strategy that gets us into trouble. It’s a question of emotions.”

So, can leaders remove emotions from decision making? Some say yes. They will make justifications such as, “When you fire someone, you must remove your emotions so you can make tough decisions. To make critical decisions, we need to remove our emotions.”

The truth is, even though there are times when humans would like to eliminate their emotions, it’s not something we can do. We were created so that everything in life is born from an emotional stimulus. Therefore, humans cannot eliminate their emotions. The answer to the question is no.

Emotions and logic work together to form the concept of emotional intelligence. RedRock Leadership can measure your EQ (emotional quotient) with an emotional intelligence assessment.

Five Key Skills of Emotional Intelligence

We hear a lot about the importance of emotional intelligence in management. What does that mean, exactly?

One definition of emotional intelligence is “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”
Emotional intelligence is a key characteristic of effective leaders. Here are the five key skills of emotional intelligence:

  • Personal awareness—the ability to recognize our influence on others
  • Integrity—the ability to let our intentions match our actions
  • Internal motivation—the ability to do the right things for the right reasons
  • Empathy—the ability to understand and respond to others’ emotions
  • Social skills—the ability to build positive relationships

The Bottom Line: Leaders Manage Their Emotions

Here’s what we need to know: even though we cannot eliminate our emotions, we can and at times need to manage our emotions while making critical decisions. Even more important to understand is that leaders can and at times need to manage their emotions. This is even more true when we are making critical decisions that will have far-reaching implications for people’s safety and for an organization’s stability.

This means that while emotions are a natural part of our thinking process and ability to maintain positive relationships with others, we should avoid extreme emotions that can interfere with good decision making. One way to manage emotion is to be aware of what triggers us to feel extreme emotions, explore why we feel that way and find ways to handle that emotion, such as talking with a trusted friend, writing in a journal or taking steps to remain positive. That can be as simple as thinking about what you’re grateful for or looking at a photo of your children.

According to Shawn Kent Hayashi, an executive coach, consultant and CEO of The Professional Development Group, “Sadness, anger and fear are signals to help us inform our actions.” She recommends simply pausing when extreme emotions feel like they are about to take over. ‘That 20-second pause that engages your thinking brain instead of your out-of-control emotional brain is all it takes to be more effective,” she says.

She teaches clients to ask themselves questions that enable them to analyze their feelings. For example, a leader prone to lashing out might ask questions such as, “What crossed my boundaries? Who do I need to speak with to clean up this situation? Am I the one who didn’t meet my own standards?”

When we are aware of the impact that emotions can have on our ability to be effective leaders, we can do a better job of managing them.

RedRock Offers Management and Leadership Training that Improves EQ

Managing emotion is just one of many topics we cover in our RedRock leadership, management training and coaching programs. We also offer incredibly informative behavioral assessments that can help you learn more about yourself and what triggers your emotions.

Learn more at

Jeff Ruby

Jeff Ruby

Founder & CEO of RedRock Leadership

During the course of his professional career, he has worked in organizations ranging in size from a sole practitioner to Fortune 500. Included in his experience are roles in starting and selling companies, sales and sales management, training and development and executive coaching.

RedRock Leadership is a sales training and leadership development company committed to growing companies by growing individuals through on-going training infused with the competencies of emotional intelligence.