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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

May 7, 2021


This week we explore how showing the right amount of emotion can improve the impact you have on others and their willingness to invest in your ideas.



Hello and welcome to episode 114 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we bring research to life in your leadership. This week we explore how showing the right amount of emotion can improve the impact you have on others and their willingness to invest in your ideas.

A common misunderstanding of Emotional Intelligence is that it’s all about holding back our emotions. This is certainly a part of Emotional Intelligence. After all, yelling at someone in the lunch room at work for not putting their cup in the dishwasher is probably not going to win you an employee of the month award. But Emotional Intelligence is not just about holding back emotions that might have a negative impact on others. It’s also about harnessing our emotions to have a more positive impact on others. Our ability to understand our own emotional state and how to manage our emotions is crucial, as is being able to empathise with others and build effective relationships. The goal of building Emotional Intelligence isn’t to become emotion-less. Rather it’s to acknowledge and use our emotions to improve our impact and performance.

However, showing too much emotion can also be off putting to others. We need to be able to read the situation. It ends up being the classic Goldilocks scenario, where we need to demonstrate enough, but not too much, emotion.

This has been backed up by a recent study. Researchers used facial analysis software to scan through around 500 Kickstarter promotional videos. Kickstarter is a platform that allows people to gain funding for their prototype ideas with people committing funds to buy the product, but only being charged once the product is produced and shipped. Sometimes there’s enough funding to go ahead, and sometimes there isn’t. It was relatively easy for researchers to measure the effectiveness of each Kickstarter campaign through the funding it received. Meanwhile, the facial analysis software examined each frame of every pitch video to determine the emotion being demonstrated. 

What the study found was fascinating. The pitches that included facial expressions moving through a range of happiness, anger, sadness and fear ended up being more successful in terms of funding. It seems like the range of facial expressions and the emotions they convey has a positive impact on those choosing to invest or walk away. 

Their qualitative analysis showed that effective pitches involved initial signs of happiness as the entrepreneur introduced themselves, followed by anger to demonstrate their determination to overcome a problem, followed then by fear as they talked about the risk and challenge.

Those who were less successful tended to use a more consistent emotional expression - perhaps smiling the whole way through or demonstrating little overt emotion. 

There are limits to this approach though. Showing too much of one emotion too often though was associated with less funding received. 

So this week, feel free to show a little more emotion at work. Express your hope for the future, your determination to succeed, your excitement at working with your colleagues. Above all though - be yourself and harness your emotions. And while we’re talking about improving your leadership, just a reminder that we have an upcoming webinar called Delegation Without the Drama on the 27th or 28th of May depending on where you are in the world. There’s a link to register in the show notes. Have a great week.





Benjamin J. Warnick, Blakley C. Davis, Thomas H. Allison, Aaron H. Anglin. Express yourself: Facial expression of happiness, anger, fear, and sadness in funding pitchesJournal of Business Venturing, 2021; 36 (4): 106109 DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2021.106109