How's Your Mood Today? Why Leaders Need to Take a Closer Look at Attitude

"I just feel numb at work," A friend told me over coffee one day. "My boss does not understand how her actions impact the team. She is supportive one day then comes in berating us the next. I never know heading into the office if it will be a good day for her or a bad one. There is absolutely nothing in me that wants to engage at work even though this is the field I care deeply about. I wanted to make a career out of this work, but now I am just looking for any way to get out of here."

Sadly, conversations like this are all too common in the workplace. I don't know if we, as leaders, honestly don't know how we come across at times or if some just really don't care. But research has shown over and over again that the success of a team is directly correlated to how their leader shows up each and every day.

In the book Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Goleman states that roughly 50-70% of how employees perceive their organization's climate is attributable to the actions and behaviors of their leader. Bruna Martinuzzi stated, "A leader creates the environment that determines people's moods at the office and their mood, in turn, affects their productivity and level of engagement."

Many leadership studies have shown the consequences of a leader's negative mood or low levels of emotional intelligence. One study looked at 62 CEOs and top administration and found the more upbeat and enthusiastic they behaved, the more cooperatively they worked together leading to more positive results in their businesses. This same study found that the longer a company's leadership team didn't get along, the poorer the company's market return.

Now, I know what you're thinking – We're all human and an occasional bad mood is bound to take place every once in a while. However, if leaders don't take a strong look in the mirror and assess their mood, energy, and presence on the daily, a company's bottom line may suffer and employee engagement will definitely take a hit. So the real question is, how is your energy as a leader? Have you checked in with yourself about how you show up for work? Below are a few tips about how a leader can check their attitude at the door and show up ready.

Take a personal assessment to understand your own needs:
"A survey of 75 members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council rated self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders to develop. Executives need to know where their natural inclinations lie in order to boost them or compensate for them. Self-awareness is about identifying personal idiosyncrasies — the characteristics that executives take to be the norm but actually represent the exception." – Excerpt from the article How to Become a Better Leader. There are a number of assessments available, both for free and for sale, that can help you better understand your natural tendencies and stressors. Devoting time to process your needs is a way to better understand your core motivators, and therefore the source of your negative reactions. 

Practice gratitude frequently:
Practicing gratitude has been scientifically linked to increasing happiness. During stressful or negative situations at work, find time to close your eyes for 60 seconds and focus on things you are grateful for. This will reframe your entire attitude and help you be more grateful for others around you. You can also get into the practice of maintaining a gratitude list or journal. Each day, write down three things you are grateful for. Try to avoid overlapping, so that you write three unique items each time. You can focus your list on your business or keep it broad and personal. Either way, you should notice a shift towards more positive thinking beyond just the time you spend making your lists. 

Go to a counselor or coach regularly:
Sometimes leaders need an external force holding them accountable for their actions or being a safe space to vent those negative emotions. Leaders can greatly improve their attitudes by routinely checking in with a counselor or coach. Forbes writes 5 reasons why successful leaders need therapy. Creating a consistent relationship with a therapist or coach can be the resource needed to challenge your own biases to initiate growth and better self-management. 

Prioritize your breaks:
Research continues to show that when a leader pushes themselves too long and too hard, their work and energy starts to suffer. Burn out can cause bad moods and even low productivity. Prioritizing time away from work, increased rest, or even planning a vacation can improve a leader's attitude and refresh their perspective. Set firm boundaries on your personal and break time, during which you don't spend any time thinking about or contributing to work projects. This could mean you leave by 6:00PM sharp each night, or that during the day you schedule time for yourself which you don't allow to be interrupted by office matters. Devoting time to yourself outside of the 40 expected hours is not selfish, but necessary.  

Managing your mood is more than just for your own benefit. Maintaining a positive outlook, even during periods of intense stress, reaches far beyond your office to affect your entire organization. How do you manage your attitude as a leader?

About the Author

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Jessica Beans is a researcher and facilitator specializing in group dynamics, leadership, and change management. She holds an undergraduate degree in public relations and graphic design and a masters degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis in change management and strategic innovation.

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