How To Lead With Emotions

#LeadandLift | Episode 71 | Natalie Boudou

Emotions tend to get pushed aside, ignored, and forgotten. However, turning your face away from it won’t make it go away. In fact, when emotions are unaddressed, they have the power to set the tone and the energy for the rest of the day and for the days beyond that.

Sometimes, you’ll feel so drained or restless and you can’t figure out what’s causing it. Other times, you’ll have sleepless nights because the emotions you’ve forgotten during the day come back to haunt you in the night.

This is the reality of emotions and this is why it’s crucial that we have the skills and resources necessary in order to address emotions in a healthy, practical, and beneficial way. To help with that, we are joined by our special guest, Natalie Bouduo. She is a coach, consultant, and author and her desire is to unleash the potential and strength of the human capital and help others see the power of emotions through her best-selling book, “HumanForce: The Power of Emotions In A Changing Workplace”.

Where to begin?

Addressing emotions healthily isn’t a soft skill, it’s a necessity. We know this to be true as we have seen and experienced for ourselves the near-constant emotional tension that the pandemic brought into our lives.

A lot of leaders asked the question, “How do I help my team cope with their emotions?” Mental and emotional health were at the forefront during the pandemic for a reason. Awareness is the first step towards transformation, and it is also the first step in negating the negative effect that unaddressed emotions can give you.

“If you're not aware of your emotions, stuff can trigger you throughout the day.” - Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath


When asked how one could lead with emotions, Natalie answered by saying that it begins with how you lead yourself. She says that it would be very difficult to interact with or understand the intimate emotions of other people if one is not in contact with their own emotions.

Therefore, good leadership starts with self-leadership and self-leadership starts with self-awareness.

Awareness and Understanding

By being aware of our emotions, we are less likely to live life unconsciously. Whether we intend it or not, we will have an impact on our team and any other people that are around us. We get to choose whether we’ll have a positive or negative emotional impact on them and it starts with checking in on ourselves. We need to be able to identify our emotions and a good way to get better at that is by expanding your emotional vocabulary.

When we become better at identifying and handling our own emotions, that’s when we can start to understand and interact with the emotions of others.

Many times in life, especially in corporate, people are so out of touch with their emotions that they don’t even know or they don’t care enough about themselves to describe what they truly feel. How many times have you asked someone what they are feeling and they answer back with, “I’m fine”?

Equipped with a greater understanding of emotions, we’re able to help others identify and manage what they are feeling and that is how you lead with emotion.

Getting in tune with your emotions

The workplace today can be very challenging, heavy workloads and back to back meetings have become commonplace. This is why people often feel like they don’t have time to check in with their emotions.

However, checking in with yourself takes as much time as taking a breath. Before you move on to your next meeting, go inward and examine what you feel. If you’re busy finishing up a task, take a 5-minute break just to check in with yourself.

Taking the time to check in with yourself isn’t a waste of time, it’s emotional hygiene. Recognize the emotions that you feel, both positive and negative. Don’t pretend that negative emotions don’t exist - embrace those feelings even if they are unpleasant.

By doing this, you can also prepare to show up as your best self when going into a meeting or conversation with people.

“It's important for you to understand how you are, where you are, [and] the impact that you're going to have because emotions are contagious.” - Natalie Bouduo

Bringing to awareness your upbringing around emotion

There’s been a lot of research about whether men and women are different emotionally, but there isn’t any conclusive evidence to suggest that they are. However, culturally speaking, they tend to be brought up differently by the people around them.

The important thing to gather from this is that we are all humans and that we all experience a wide range of emotions. However, each one is brought up in a different way and the values that we hold around emotion has the potential to cripple us if not acknowledged and examined.

How were you taught to express your feelings while you were growing up? You need to know yourself and know where you’re coming from in order for you to direct where you are going. In Natalie’s words, we have to do a little bit of detective work or be an “emotional detective”. Studying your emotions is an investment that pays off in the long term.

Strategies for managing emotions

“When you label an emotion it immediately takes the intensity down.” - Natalie Bouduo

When you acknowledge a feeling and put an accurate label on it, something happens in the brain that takes the intensity of the emotion down. This is why it’s important to grow your emotional vocabulary. There are hundreds of emotions and an infinite amount of contexts for each one. Take the time to be familiar with all different types of emotions.

My tip for you that I personally practice myself is that whenever I feel a negative emotion, I timebox it so that if I feel sad about something today, for example, I could find out what’s causing that feeling without having to take it into tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a brand new day with brand new challenges and brand new emotional experiences. It would serve you best if you could address emotions today and be ready to take on more tomorrow so that you wouldn’t get overwhelmed.

It also helps to acknowledge that so-called “negative” emotions aren’t actually bad. Anger, fear, and sadness aren’t worthless. Each of those emotions has a story to tell and you need to hear them out. The problem with these emotions isn’t that they’re not good for you but rather that they drain your energy. This is why it’s important to address these energy-draining emotions and embrace and understand them.

“By going towards the emotion by sitting with it, even if it's unpleasant, and by spending a little bit of doing that emotional detective work, you are likely to go forward and not be bothered by that same emotion the next day or the day after, otherwise it would just come back.” - Natalie Bouduo

How do we grow an emotional culture in the workplace

If you as a leader want to create a workplace culture that embraces emotions, then you’ve got to start with growing your empathy. A lot of people think they know empathy, but research says that we still have a long way to go when it comes to empathy and understanding what others feel.

We show empathy by being fully present with a person and listening well. Be curious about what’s going on in people’s lives, show them that you care about what’s happening and most importantly, provide a safe space for your team to openly discuss emotions or emotional topics. By doing all of that, you’ll be creating a positive emotional culture where everyone is free to express themselves and bring their whole selves to work.

Building a culture is all about communicating your ideals and setting those values as norms. Make it commonplace to discuss authentic and genuine conversations.

Connection is in danger in the hybrid or online workspace. We don’t bump into people anymore, creating connections these days needs to be intentional or deliberate, we have to initiate and maintain connections with people.

“We are humans, and these emotions happen constantly and we need to create a safe space to address them so we can move on and not have them linger because they impact our productivity, we can't sleep at night, because they just keep coming up over and over.” - Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath

Natalie said that it would be great if we could leave our emotions at home, but that isn’t the case. We bring it with us wherever we go. That’s why it’s best to address them as soon as possible and channel those emotions into something productive rather than let them silently take over our life.

“It is part of who you are. You can't deny it. You've got to work with it” - Natalie Bouduo

In the end, leading with emotions all boils down to caring for other people genuinely. If you can ask somebody how they are and you can care about what they say, then that’s half the battle. Once you hear them out, then you’ve got to help them take the next step and be there with them when they do it.

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